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Pakistan Fires Nuclear-Capable Missile

This military handout picture dated 16 November 2006, shows Pakistani Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz (C) posing with military officials in front of the medium-range Hatf V, or Ghauri missile, prior to its test fire at an undisclosed location. Photo courtesy of AFP.
by Rana Jawad
Islamabad (AFP) Nov 16, 2006
Pakistan Thursday test fired a nuclear-capable ballistic missile, a day after concluding peace talks with India where the South Asian rivals agreed to fresh atomic safety measures. The medium-range Hatf V, or Ghauri missile, which can strike targets 1,300 kilometers (812 miles) away, was fired from an undisclosed location and the test was successful, the Pakistani military said.

"The missile is already in service and the test was conducted to check technical parameters," military spokesman Major General Shaukat Sultan told AFP.

India had been informed about the missile launch in advance, in keeping with a prior agreement, the foreign ministry said.

Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz witnessed the launch along with defence chiefs, scientists and engineers from Pakistan's missile programme, a military statement said.

"Pakistan can be justifiably proud of its defence capability and the reliability of its nuclear deterrence," the statement quoted Aziz as saying.

Aziz said Pakistan "believed in peace that comes from a position of strength and operational readiness. The defence of the country was non-negotiable".

The premier added Pakistan's nuclear capability had now "matured".

The Ghauri missile is named after a 12th-century Muslim conqueror of India, who came from Afghanistan. It was test fired as part of a training exercise and hit its target, the statement said.

Regional rivals Pakistan and India have routinely conducted missile tests since carrying out tit-for-tat nuclear detonations in May 1998, alarming the world.

Top Indian and Pakistani diplomats concluded two days of talks in New Delhi Wednesday where they agreed to create a panel to share intelligence on terrorism and move to cut the risk of nuclear weapon "accidents".

The talks rekindled a peace process put on hold since July's Mumbai train bombings, where 189 people died. Indian officials said Pakistan's spy agency was linked to the blasts, a claim Pakistan denied.

The two countries "expressed satisfaction over the implementation of the agreement on pre-notification of flight testing of ballistic missiles" at the talks, they said.

They also agreed on the "early signing" of an agreement to reduce the risk of "accidents relating to nuclear weapons", without giving a specific time frame. The two sides are to meet next in Islamabad in February.

Pakistan, an Islamic republic, and mainly Hindu India have fought three wars since independence from Britain in 1947.

Two of those conflicts, plus a major skirmish in 1999, have been over the disputed Himalayan territory of Kashmir, which India and Pakistan control in part, but claim in its entirety.

The Delhi talks failed to make any headway on the Kashmir issue.

Source: Agence France-Presse

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