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 Wednesday, 18 December, 2002, 18:39 GMT
India taking 'nuclear protection' steps
Pakistan's Ghauri ballistic missile
Pakistani ballistic missiles cause concern in India
The Indian Defence Minister, George Fernandes, says Delhi is taking steps to ensure protection from nuclear and biological attacks.

The government continues to closely monitor all developments related to Pakistan's nuclear and missile programmes

Defence Minister George Fernandes

Mr Fernandes was answering questions from a fellow legislator in the Indian parliament in Delhi on Wednesday.

He refused to elaborate, however, saying it would not be in the national interest to disclose any further details of what these steps were.

Although Mr Fernandes once said China was the main source of threat to Indian security, in recent years, Delhi's disputes with Islamabad have drawn the world's attention.

Both India and Pakistan carried out a series of underground nuclear tests in 1998. Since then they have engaged in a subtle race to improve their respective arsenals.

Nuclear rivalry

Following a militant attack on the Indian parliament a year ago, the two neighbours deployed about a million soldiers along their border and international mediators repeatedly visited the two capitals to defuse tension.

George Fernandes
Mr Fernandes would not provide any details

Both countries have also been testing ballistic missiles capable of carrying nuclear weapons.

Mr Fernandes said: "The government has initiated necessary steps to ensure protection from nuclear and bio-attack."

And in answer to another question, he said: "The government continues to closely monitor all developments related to Pakistan's nuclear and missile programmes."

Analysts say while parts of India's strategic arsenal is intended to deter China, which is considered a rival for regional influence, all of Pakistan's missiles and nuclear arms are aimed at India.

Conciliatory signal

Correspondents say very little is known about the two countries' nuclear weapons programmes.

Analysts have expressed concerns that the risk of an accident or miscalculation is high because of lack of any joint safety measures taken by the two countries.

But there has been a conciliatory signal towards Islamabad too.

India's Foreign Minister Yashwant Sinha told parliament that his country was willing to attend a regional summit meeting in Pakistan if Islamabad announced a new date for it.

Originally scheduled in January 2003, the summit was indefinitely postponed by Pakistan on the ground that India had failed to confirm its attendance.

See also:

09 Dec 02 | South Asia
02 Dec 02 | South Asia
02 Dec 02 | South Asia
26 Jan 02 | South Asia
25 Jan 02 | South Asia
25 Jan 02 | South Asia
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