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Pakistan And India Race Rockets

An Iranian Clergyman stares at an anti-Israel poster. Photo courtesy of AFP.
by Martin Sieff
UPI Senior News Analyst
Washington (UPI) May 12, 2006
The South Asia ballistic missile and nuclear arms race between India and Pakistan rivals the one between Israel and Iran for being the most dangerous on the planet. Relations between India and Pakistan are currently not remotely as fraught as those between Israel and Iran.

New Delhi and Islamabad regularly hold talks to at least explore the possibility of reducing tensions and agreeing upon confidence building measures. Yet the costly race between them to develop and deploy ever-more complex and deadly weapons, defense countermeasures and even survivable second strike capabilities never slows down.

The latest development came May 6 when Pakistan announced it had successfully tested its Shaheen II/Hatf VI ballistic intermediate-range ballistic missile. The Web site of the Pakistani armed forces announced that the nuclear-capable missile had a range of 1,500 miles and was highly accurate. Previous reports had given earlier versions of the missile a range of 1,200-1,250 miles. It was the first test of the Shaheen II, a two-stage, solid fuel missile, in 14 months since the successful March 2005.

Ironically, the test came two days after Pakistan and India concluded a three-day session of negotiations in the Pakistani capital Islamabad to discuss confidence-building measures between them in their nuclear program and other areas. However, the two nations failed to reach the agreement they had sought on reducing the risk of accidental or unauthorized use of nuclear weapons. described Pakistan Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz as "overwhelmed" by the success of the test. It said Aziz congratulated the engineers, scientists and technical staff who were present at the launching.

India's answer to the Shaheen II is its own indigenously developed Agni missile. Short and intermediate range versions of the Agni with ranges of 420 miles and 1,500 miles have already entered service with the Indian armed forces. That missile, like the Shaheen, is solid fueled, and therefore capable of being deployed and launched far more quickly than older liquid fueled ballistic missiles were.

The Agni class missiles are also road and rail mobile, making it more difficult for Pakistan to wipe out the force in any preemptive first strike.

Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf continues to give top priority to the development of Pakistan's nuclear weapons and their ballistic missile delivery systems. He sent a special message to congratulate the missile test team and said the entire nation was proud of their brilliant performance, the report said.

For Musharraf knows that nuclear missiles are Pakistan's great strategic equalizer with India. Although Pakistan is probably the fifth most populous nation in the world (Its high birth rates are believed to have put it past Russia), its economy and army are both much smaller than India's. And in the three conventional wars India and Pakistan have fought over the past six decades - in 1947-48, 1965 and 1971, India always won in the end. The Indians also celebrate the 1999 Kargil mini-war as a victory.

But Pakistan has received massive boosts from outside friends in developing its nuclear and missile programs. Much of the funding for its nuclear program came from Saudi Arabia. It has received over the years a massive infusion of North Korean Nodong missile technology to the Pakistan nuclear missile program over the past decade. The accuracy of the guidance systems in Pakistan's nuclear arsenal are believed to be far superior to India's, thanks to the technology that China has supplied to Islamabad.

Aware of the vulnerability of their much touted but relatively old fashioned and vulnerable nuclear missile bases, India has responded by taking a leaf out of Israel's book and has already deployed under its Eastern Command at least one submarine, the INS Sindhuvir, that is believed to be armed with Danush/Saganika cruise missiles.

India is also eager to develop ballistic missile defenses in partnership with the United States and President George W. Bush has already gave the green light for this. The United States is preparing to sell India its state of the art Patriot PAC-3 anti-ballistic missile, the most advanced defense system of its kind in the world.

However, Pakistan has successfully tested a new solid fuel cruise missile. Cruise missiles can be produced in great numbers very cheaply once one has access to the high-tech guidance systems that allow them to zigzag over the landscape. And just by deploying them in any significant numbers, Pakistan will be stretching India's air-space ballistic missile defense system very far, and forcing India to spend more of its limited financial and technological resources to combat the threat.

The successful Shaheen II test last week served notice that the deadly nuclear arms race between India and Pakistan -- threatening the survival of one fifth of the human race -- continues unabated.

Source: United Press International

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