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India Holds Republic Day Celebrations Under High Security - 2002-01-26


India held traditional Republic Day observances on Saturday. The celebrations mark India's transition to a republic in 1950. This year they occurred one day after New Delhi carried out a test of one its nuclear-capable ballistic missiles. Authorities imposed a curfew in Indian-administered Kashmir and Indian forces along the Pakistan border were on high alert.

Marching bands and colorful floats paraded past dignitaries in New Delhi as 65,000 police and paramilitary personnel carried out unprecedented security sweeps across the capital.

Unlike previous years, there were few signs of India's considerable military might on parade. Authorities say tanks, missiles and regimental units have been deployed to India's border with Pakistan.

Tensions have been high between the two nuclear neighbors since December 13 when terrorists carried out a suicide attack against India's parliament. New Delhi says Pakistan-based terrorists were responsible for the attack and wants Islamabad to hand over about 20 suspected terrorists and criminals.

On Friday India carried out a surprise test of its nuclear-capable Agni-series ballistic missile. Indian government says the test was routine, but Pakistan called it "destabilizing."

India says it notified Pakistan, the five permanent members of the Security Council as well as Germany and Japan prior to the test of its Agni-series missile. The missile tested is believed to have a range of 700 kilometers. Last year India tested a long-range version of the Agni.

U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell who recently completed a diplomatic mission to the region said he did not welcome the missile test, but he also did not believe it would increase tensions with Pakistan. Mr. Powell said he is encouraged both sides are looking for a diplomatic solution to their current crisis.

This Republic Day also marks the first anniversary of a devastating earthquake that struck the Indian state of Gujarat. An estimated 13,000 people died in the quake. Memorial services were held across the state Saturday in memory of the victims.

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