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 Friday, 10 January, 2003, 05:19 GMT
US criticises India missile tests
Agni II missile
The Agni has a range of 800 kilometres
The United States says it is disappointed by India's testing of a ballistic missile on Thursday.

The US State Department spokesman, Richard Boucher, said the test would contribute to the charged atmosphere in the region, making it harder to prevent a destabilising arms race.

The test of the Agni-1 missile, which has a range of 800 kilometres, is one of several planned by India and came amid a sharp exchange of words between India and Pakistan over their nuclear capability in the past week.

Pakistan said Thursday's test was not unexpected, and that it demonstrated India's desire to "impose its hegemony" on the region.

Agni-1 is an intermediate range ballistic missile which can be fired from mobile launchers and can strike any target in Pakistan.

"The test is one more step in enhancing India's overall weapons-of-mass-destruction capability," defence analyst Uday Bhaskar told Reuters.

The latest Indian test comes a day after Pakistan said a new intermediate-range missile system capable of carrying nuclear warheads had been handed over to the army's recently created strategic force command.

That came after India announced it had set up a formal command structure to manage its nuclear weapons.

Under it, the Indian prime minister and his senior political advisers are the only ones authorised to order a nuclear strike.

Pakistan

Reacting to India's missile test, Pakistan's information minister said Delhi's nuclear and missile ambitions were well known.

"Such tests reflect the thinking and mindset of India and the international community must take its notice," the minister, Sheikh Rashid Ahmed, said.

Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf
Pakistan has an intermediate range nuclear capable missile system
Pakistan's announcment on Wednesday was the first public signal that Islamabad had in its possession nuclear weapons as well as an effective delivery system.

Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf also strongly denied recent reports of co-operation between Pakistan and North Korea in the nuclear field.

However President Musharraf said the sole purpose of having nuclear capability was deterrence and the defence of the country's sovereignty. India has ruled out any first strike with nuclear weapons, but reserves the right to use them in the event of an attack using non-conventional arms.

Pakistan has not ruled out the first use of nuclear weapons in the event of a major attack.

The rivals came close to war last year following an attack in December 2001 on the Indian parliament, which Delhi blamed on Pakistani-backed militants.

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08 Jan 03 | South Asia
07 Jan 03 | South Asia
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