India Tests New Nuclear-Capable Missile
The test of a short-range version of the Agni-I missile came on the eve of Republic Day, India’s most important national holiday.
Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee told reporters the action had been planned long before the current tensions began and was part of a series of tests to demonstrate the strength of India’s security.
“This will be beneficial from India’s security point of view. The date of the test had been decided beforehand. I once again congratulate our scientists,” he said.
Indian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Nirupama Rao emphasized the test was planned before the current spike in tensions with Pakistan, which began after a Dec. 13 suicide raid on India’s parliament building that the Indian government blames on Pakistan.
“The test was conducted in a non-provocative manner and has no bearing on the situation on the India-Pakistan border. This should not aggravate any tensions on the border or between India and Pakistan,” she said.
Rao said Pakistan and all five permanent members of the UN Security Council were warned of the tests ahead of time.
But Pakistan said the tests could worsen already rocky relations between the two countries.
“We hope the international community will take note of this Indian behavior which is prejudicial to the pursuit of stability in our region, especially during the current situation,” Pakistan’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement. “Pakistan has the means to defend itself.”
Despite international attempts to broker an end to the crisis, the two countries have tightened security along their shared border. In the disputed region of Kashmir today, troops from both sides traded mortar fire.
India and Pakistan have fought three wars since they gained independence from Britain in 1947. In 1998, Pakistan followed a spate of similar Indian nuclear tests with trials of its own nuclear devices.