Britain blocks the sale of 60 Hawk jets to India

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The British Government has put a block on the sale to India of 60 Hawk jets worth £1bn as part of an arms embargo aimed at averting war between India and Pakistan, which both have nuclear weapons.

The British Government has put a block on the sale to India of 60 Hawk jets worth £1bn as part of an arms embargo aimed at averting war between India and Pakistan, which both have nuclear weapons.

Tensions between the two countries over the disputed territory of Kashmir were kept high yesterday as Pakistan test fired a missile and there were heavy artillery and mortar exchanges in the Himalayan region. Pakistan said four civilians had been killed.

The Independent on Sunday has learnt the ban on all arms export licences to India and Pakistan ­ worth £64m and £6m last year respectively ­ was signed by Patricia Hewitt, the Trade and Industry Secretary, on Thursday. It may be extended to for "dual use" goods such as Land Rovers.

The decision underlines the extreme anxiety felt in London and other capitals at the most serious threat of a nuclear exchange since the Cuban missile crisis in the 1960s. The Ghauri missile tested by Pakistan yesterday is capable of carrying a nuclear or conventional warhead nearly 1,000 miles into India.

The crisis yesterday drew concern from President George W Bush and his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, who were continuing their summit in St Petersburg.

Mr Bush urged Pakistan's President Pervez Musharraf to fulfill his pledge to stop militants from carrying out raids in the Indian-controlled sector of Kashmir. The two countries have massed a million soldiers along the border following a militant attack on the Indian Parliament in December.

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