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Fears over Pakistan missile tests

Observers say the timing of Pakistan's latest missile test is provocative
Observers say the timing of Pakistan's latest missile test is provocative  

NEW DELHI, India (CNN) -- Pakistan told India on Friday it would be conducting missile tests over the weekend, but New Delhi said it was "not particularly impressed by these missile antics."

The tests, which India said were "routine" and intended to impress a domestic audience in Pakistan, will be conducted from Saturday to Tuesday.

In the past, the two nuclear powers routinely have informed each other of impending tests. But political observers say the timing of the event is causing concern. Brahma Chellaney -- one of the top strategic analysts in India -- said Pakistan's move is "certainly a provocative action."

"We have been informed by Pakistan of its plans to carry a series of missile tests comprising short and medium range missiles," an India External Affairs Ministry spokesman said. "Appropriate notifications have been issued for these tests, which have been scheduled between 25 and 28 May.

"This is routine and not central to the current situation. What is and what we would expect and judge by is the specific action taken by the government of Pakistan to stop cross-border infiltration and tension, to dismantle training camps for terrorists, to destroy the support and finance structure for terrorist networks, and to show conclusively that it has abandoned its use and promotion of terrorism as an instrument of state policy."

Pakistan government spokesman Anwar Mehmood said: "We have notified neighboring countries like Iran, India and the U.S. as well. This is routine. We notify them 24 hours ahead." Military sources said ballistic missiles will be tested.

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The development comes amid rising tensions that have put hundreds of thousands of troops on the India-Pakistan border and resulted in more than a week of cross-border skirmishes in Kashmir, the disputed Himalayan region that has been a bone of contention between India and Pakistan for decades.

When asked about the capability both India and Pakistan have in waging a nuclear conflict, U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said Friday at a Pentagon briefing there is "no question" that they have the ability to wage such a fight.

Rumsfeld was asked if he has estimates on how many people would die in such a conflict, but he did not provide figures.

"It would be bad. It would not be pretty. It would not be short-lived."

Earlier Friday, the Pakistani Foreign Ministry said it had appealed to the United Nations to help defuse the situation, which is threatening to spark a fourth war between the two South Asian neighbors.

"We are ready to cooperate with any effort or good offices by the United Nations or the international community for reducing tension, preserving peace and promoting dialogue between the two countries," Foreign Minister Abdul Sattar said in a letter addressed to U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan and the U.N. Security Council.

The assassination of a Kashmiri separatist Tuesday and an attack last week on an Indian army camp that killed more than 30 people sparked the latest round of political rhetoric and military posturing as accusations and counter-accusations have flown between Pakistan and India, which blames Pakistan for cross-border terror attacks.

The shelling by both sides across the Line of Control, the line dividing Kashmir between India and Pakistan, is continuing, but it is not as bad Friday as it had been throughout the week, said CNN's Kamal Hyder, reporting from the Pakistani side of the line.

Pakistani military sources confirmed Friday that two people were killed and four were seriously injured in sectors on the Pakistani side of the Line of Control.

But Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee appeared to tone down his war-like rhetoric Thursday as the nuclear neighbors came under intense diplomatic pressure to end the standoff.

U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage will start a mission to the region June 4 in hopes of cooling down the tensions. British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw also is headed to the region to meet with leaders.

Secretary of State Colin Powell remains in close touch with the leaders in the region. He said it was important for India and Pakistan to resume a dialogue over their differences.

"We call on the U.N. and the international community to use their good offices with India and to advise it to choose the path of dialogue and negotiations as against confrontation to resolve the issue of Jammu and Kashmir and other outstanding issues between the two countries," the foreign minister's letter said.

The Pakistani foreign minister late Thursday said that "India must not harbor any illusions of waging and winning a war against Pakistan. This would be a major miscalculation leading to grave consequences."

Armed Indian Army soldiers move in single file close to the International Border near Jammu
Armed Indian Army soldiers move in single file close to the International Border near Jammu  

"The Indian leaders must not understand the restraint so far shown by Pakistan in the face of their provocative statements and moves. Pakistan has the ability to defend itself against any war imposed by Indian. Any misadventure by India will be met with full force."

European Union External Relations Commissioner Chris Patten has met with Pakistani officials in the past two days and was in India Friday meeting with officials there.

In an interview with CNN in New Delhi, Patten said: "The political situation is as hot as the temperature. I think frankly we are on a knife edge. There has to be some movement, I think, above all on the question of terrorism in order for us to see people pulling back from the brink. And that has to come soon."

A newspaper report Friday -- quoting unnamed sources -- said India was giving Pakistan two months to stop cross-border attacks by Kashmiri separatists, before making a decision about taking military action.

Patten mentioned the report to Indian officials and was told nobody discussed "time scales in that sort of way."

He said it is his impression that "Indian patience is pretty well at breaking point."

Indian authorities want evidence from Pakistan of a reduction of infiltration over the Line of Control and a reduction of violence in Kashmir, Patten said.

Rumsfeld said United States and Indian diplomats recently completed the second round of two round of talks, which dealt with joint exercises, military-to-military exchanges, joint naval operations, counterterrorism cooperation and direct disaster relief and humanitarian assistance.

He said U.S. and India "share important interests in fighting terrorism and in countering the spread of missile and weapons of mass destruction technology to dangerous regimes."

"We also expressed our country's very serious concerns about the dangerous situation between India and Pakistan and the need to reduce tensions between the two countries.

"We made the point that war is not an option."

-- From CNN correspondents Satinder Bindra, Tom Mintier and Ash-har Quraishi


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