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Pakistan Tests Nuclear-Capable Missile - 2003-10-08


Pakistan says it has successfully tested a medium range missile, which can carry both conventional and nuclear weapons. This is the second such test in less than a week.

A spokesman for the Pakistani military says the surface-to-surface Shaheen I ballistic missile was launched from a secret location Wednesday morning. He says the rocket has a range of up to 700 kilometers and can carry all kinds of warheads. The range is broad enough to hit targets deep inside of India.

The spokesman says Pakistan plans to carry out an ongoing series of tests of the country's indigenous missile system in the near future.

On Friday, Islamabad tested a Hatf III Ghaznavi missile in the same category but with a shorter range of 290 kilometers.

Neighboring India conducted similar tests in April and June. But Pakistani officials say their tests have nothing to do with development in the region.

Critics say missile tests in both India and Pakistan are bringing the nations closer to nuclear buildup and missile development.

"This is extremely unfortunate because development of these missiles then leads to a heightening of the tension between the two sides," said Pervez Hoodboy, a physics professor at Islamabad's Quaid-e-Azam University. "It's an obvious fact that missiles once they have been launched cannot be recalled and therefore this puts the whole system on hair-trigger. The more missiles we have the more dangerous the situation will become."

India and Pakistan have fought three wars, two of them over Kashmir. The exchange of fire between their soldiers along the disputed Kashmir border has become common.

Professor Hoodboy says the long history of confrontation and wars does not permit development of missile programs and other weapons.

"All these developments make the missile race between India and Pakistan yet more worrisome and much more than between the other countries," he said. "Here both countries have nuclear weapons, and it's clear that the missile that have been developed have nuclear capability. So this is an ugly race that has begun, which now shows no signs of slackening off."

Tensions between India and Pakistan have eased this year as the countries have restored full diplomatic relations and have opened a cross-border bus service. But the renewed violence in the dispute Kashmir region seems to have slowed down progress toward opening of bilateral peace talks. India has long accused Pakistan of sponsoring the violence in its areas of Kashmir, a charge Pakistan denies.

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