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India Tests Short-Range Missile Thursday - 2003-04-29

India has tested its most sophisticated short-range nuclear capable missile Tuesday. The missile test comes a day after the first high-level contact between the prime ministers of India and rival Pakistan in nearly two years.

India's Defense Ministry says the Prithvi missile was successfully test-fired from Chandipur in the eastern Orissa State on Tuesday.

The missile has a range of about 150 to 200 kilometers, and can reach targets in Pakistan. It is already part of the Army's arsenal.

India has conducted several routine missile tests this year. India carried out its nuclear tests in 1998, and has developed nuclear-capable missiles that can target both Pakistan and China.

Rival Pakistan had been informed of the test in advance.

Monday, Pakistani Prime Minister Zafarullah Khan Jamali telephoned his Indian counterpart, Atal Behari Vajpayee, ending a nearly two-year silence between the two countries. The two leaders discussed ways to improve relations, including an invitation for a meeting in Pakistan.

Mr. Jamali's call followed an offer by Mr. Vajpayee earlier this month to hold talks with Pakistan to settle their differences on all issues including the disputed region of Kashmir. The Himalayan region is divided between the two countries, but is claimed in its entirety by both.

The recent peace moves by both countries are being seen as a breakthrough in their tense relations.

Political science Professor Kanti Bajpai at Jawaharlal Nehru University said the peace initiatives may not lead to immediate progress, but is a milestone between the two countries, which came close to war last year. "What we are seeing is an opening. And I would expect that if all goes well we may see fairly soon some sort of a move to resume talks, perhaps at a lower level, not at the foreign ministers or summit level as earlier, but at a more bureaucratic, low level," he said.

Despite the easing of tensions, Kashmir continues to be wracked by violence. In the latest incident, Indian officials say at least six soldiers and 12 suspected Islamic militants were killed. The shootout occurred when Indian troops raided a suspected base for Kashmiri independence guerrillas - about 170 kilometers northeast of Kashmir's winter capital, Jammu.

In addition, India's newly-appointed envoy wrapped up a week-long visit to Indian-Kashmir, where he explored the possibility of peace talks. N.N. Vohra met state lawmakers and other political leaders - but separatist groups refused to meet with him, saying they want direct talks with top Indian leaders.

India accuses Pakistan of supporting Islamic militants in Indian-Kashmir fighting to merge with Pakistan or for independence. More than a decade of violence in India's only Muslim majority region has cost more than 38,000 lives.