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Thursday, September 23, 1999 Published at 16:03 GMT 17:03 UK

World: South Asia

Pakistan warns of renewed arms race

Pakistan's Ghauri-2 missile has a range of about 2,300km

Pakistan has said it will be forced to step up its nuclear and missile capabilities because of India's recently announced nuclear doctrine.

Kashmir Conflict
Speaking at the annual UN General Assembly in New York, Pakistan's Foreign Minister, Sartaj Aziz, accused India of planning a huge arsenal of land, sea and air-operated nuclear weapons.

Mr Aziz warned of a nuclear 'doomsday' in South Asia and called for world pressure on India.

"The international community must act - and it must act immediately - if it is to avoid a hair-trigger security environment in South Asia," Mr Aziz said.

[ image: Jaswant Singh: India 'disappointed']
Jaswant Singh: India 'disappointed'
He called for the UN to establish an international conference of nuclear powers to promote "strategic restraint and stability" in South Asia.

The Indian Foreign Minister, Jaswant Singh, said India was disappointed by what he called the compulsive hostility of Pakistan.

"India's commitment to global nuclear disarmament remains undiluted," he said.

In Delhi, India's National Security Advisor Brajesh Mishra also criticised the Pakistan position.

"If he has said this, it is highly irresponsible, " he said.

Kashmiris stopped

Meanwhile, two leaders of a separatist political alliance in Kashmir, the All Parties Hurriyet Conference, have been stopped at Delhi airport as they were leaving for New York to attend meetings on the fringe of the UN General Assembly.

One of the leaders, Umar Farooq, said immigration officers gave no reason for not allowing them to leave the country.

Earlier in the week, Mr Farooq told a news conference in Delhi that they would be lobbying the international community for support for an East Timor-style referendum to determine the future of Kashmir.

Nuclear shadow

India unveiled its draft nuclear doctrine in August. It proposed a nuclear weapons policy based on the principle that such weapons would only be used in retaliation following a nuclear attack by an enemy. It also said that India should continue to develop nuclear arms.

A year ago at the UN General Assembly the leaders of India and Pakistan both gave conditional undertakings to sign the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty by this September.

The BBC's Diplomatic Correspondent Barnaby Mason says now the atmosphere is gloomier and the prospect of an accelerating nuclear arms race looms larger.

Earlier this year the world's two newest nuclear nations came close to war. Both sides lost hundreds of soldiers in the Himalayan region of Kashmir, after heavy fighting between Pakistan-backed forces and India troops.

The two countries have fought three wars since gaining independence from Britain in 1947.

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