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India follows Pakistan with missile test

Staff and wires

Pakistan's intermediate range missile is capable of carrying nuclear warheads
Pakistan's intermediate range missile is capable of carrying nuclear warheads

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CNN's Tom Mintier reports from Islamabad
- Length: 12.0 m
- Body diameter: 1.0 m
- Launch weight: 9,500 kg
- Payload: Single warhead 1,000 kg
- Warhead: 750 kg nuclear 35 kT, chemical, HE or submunitions
Guidance: Inertial
- Propulsion: Single-stage solid propellant
- Range: 750-800 km
- Accuracy: 200 m
Sources: CNN/Janes

NEW DELHI, India (CNN) -- Just hours after Pakistan test-fired an "indigenously developed" medium range surface-to-surface ballistic missile, India has responded by test-firing its own surface-to-air missile.

India's domestically-built Akash missile was fired from a mobile laucher at the Interim Test Range at Chandipur-on-Sea near Balasore in Orissa. It has a range of 25 kilometers (15 miles) and is able to strike several targets simultaneously.

The tests come during a particularly low point in relations between the two countries, following closely a spate of killings blamed on Pakistani-based militants during elections in the Indian-run half of Kashmir.

More than a million Indian and Pakistani troops remain locked in a tense, 10-month-old stand-off along their shared border.

"It was a routine test. We are testing different parameters of the missile since the past fortnight," said P. K. Bandhopadhyaya, the Defense Ministry spokesman. "The missile is meant for air defense. It will be used by the army and air force," he told The Associated Press.

Earlier Friday, Pakistan launched a test missile, named the Hatf 4 or Shaheen, which is believed to have a range of 750-800 kilometers (465-500 miles) and the capability to carry both conventional and nuclear warheads.

"Prior notification of the test had been given to neighbors as well as some friendly countries," Pakistan's Inter Services Public Relations Directorate said in a press release.

A Pakistani military official quoted by The Associated Press described the test as "routine."

India initially labeled Pakistan's test a publicity stunt "clearly targeted at the forthcoming general election in Pakistan."

"As we have said before, we are not particularly impressed with these missile antics of Pakistan," India's External Affairs Ministry spokeswoman Nirupama Rao said to reporters before India had responded with its own test.

"As is well known, Pakistani missiles are based on clandestinely imported materials, equipment, and technology," she added.

U.S. visit

The test also followed a visit by Christina Rocca, the U.S. assistant secretary for South Asia, who left the region Thursday after attempting to lower tensions between India and Pakistan over the disputed territory Kashmir.

Some analysts have suggested that with the current international focus on a possible U.S.-led military attack against Iraq, India may be tempted to take the opportunity of launching a strike on Pakistan.

Pakistan Shaheen II missile (file)
Pakistan said it had warned its nuclear-rival India in advance of the exercise

Given that possibility, the test may be a way of Pakistan showing off the continued readiness of its armed forces.

With tensions remaining high, both countries have been urged to halt missile tests in order to avoid misinterpretations by the other side that could accidentally trigger a war.

Diplomats say that with each country just four minutes missile flight from the other there is little time for the opposing militaries to determine whether a launch is indeed a test or a first strike attack warranting an immediate response.

Furthermore it is also impossible for either side to determine whether an opponent's missile might be carrying a conventional or nuclear warhead -- raising the potential of a retaliatory strike with disastrous consequences for the region.

-- CNN Correspondents Tom Mintier in Islamabad and Ram Ramgopal in Delhi in Islamabad contributed to this report

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