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Friday, May 28, 1999 Published at 16:06 GMT 17:06 UK

World: South Asia

Conflict dampens nuclear anniversary

Concerned Pakistanis scan the headlines for news of the conflict

By Zafar Abbas in Islamabad

Pakistan is celebrating the first anniversary of its becoming a nuclear weapon state.

Kashmir Conflict
The official celebrations have, however, been overshadowed by a sudden escalation in the conflict between Pakistan and India over Kashmir, just one year after the two countries acquired the nuclear capability.

On 28 May, 1998, Pakistan carried out a series of nuclear tests to become the seventh country in the world to have nuclear weapons capability.

[ image: The Chaghi hills have become a symbol of power]
The Chaghi hills have become a symbol of power
For many Pakistani citizens, it was a befitting response to an earlier Indian move to carry out nuclear explosions.

As the international community expressed its serious concern on the two South Asian rivals acquiring nuclear weapons capability, Pakistan justified the decision by saying it had only restored strategic balance in the region.

From Pakistan's point of view, it was a major achievement and it is now officially celebrating its first anniversary as a thanksgiving day.

The main feature of the celebration is to project the Chaghi mountain in Balochistan, where the underground tests were conducted, as a major symbol of power.

Huge replica mountains have been placed at vantage points in Islamabad and many other cities.

Fear of escalating tension

But these celebrations have somewhat been overshadowed by the latest escalation in the conflict in Kashmir.

The shooting down of two Indian planes by Pakistan on Thursday, the continued air strikes by India against suspected militants, and the possibility of retaliation by Pakistan, have increased the chances of further escalation in the conflict.

The fear is more pronounced in the border areas from where many people have started to move to safer places.

Although both India and Pakistan are trying to play down the possibility of a larger conflict, the fact that the two countries have already fought two wars over Kashmir and now have nuclear weapon capability is enough to send alarm bells ringing across the world.

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