INDIA AND Pakistan conducted tit-for-tat missile tests yesterday. Pakistan tested a nuclear-capable surface-to-surface missile able to hit most targets in India. Within hours, Delhi tested its most sophisticated surface-to-air missile meant to bolster its air defence.
With more than one million soldiers deployed along the border, and daily sabre-rattling from Delhi and Islamabad, the missile tests threaten to escalate tension in a region that is one step from the brink.
Pakistan warned that India, by conducting a test on the same day as its own, threatened to launch an arms race in South Asia. Both countries tested underground nuclear devices in 1998, and both say they have inducted nuclear weapons into their arsenals. But it is not known how many nuclear weapons either country possesses, or whether they have the nuclear warheads to attach to their missile stocks.
"India is trying to go into an arms race," the Pakistani Information Minister, Nisar Memon, said. But India said the testing of its domestically built Akash missile was routine. "We have been testing different parameters of the missile for the past fortnight," a Defence Ministry spokesman said. "The missile is meant for air defence. It will be used by the army and air force."
Both countries notified the other of their plans to test. Pakistan declared its test a success and insisted it was not intended to inflame tensions. …