Pakistan fires second missile test

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The Independent Online

Pakistan conducted its second missile test in two days today, as the international community struggled to pull India and Pakistan, two nuclear neighbours, back from the brink of war.

Pakistan conducted its second missile test in two days today, as the international community struggled to pull India and Pakistan, two nuclear neighbours, back from the brink of war.

Today's test was the first for the short-range Hatf-III or Ghaznavi missile, which is believed to be capable of carrying a nuclear warhead.

With a range of 176 miles this new surface-to-surface missile can hit border regions of India, where nearly one million soldiers face off against each other.

Despite international pleas that the two neighbours ease tensions, Pakistan yesterday began a series of missile tests, which will continue until Tuesday. Pakistan says the tests have nothing to do with the current situation. India says it is not worried.

Yesterday Pakistan tested the medium range surface-to-surface ballistic missile called the Ghauri. Both the Ghauri and Ghaznavi missiles are capable of carrying conventional and nuclear warheads.

The Ghauri missile has a range of 900 miles, far enough to reach deep into India.

The tests come as both Pakistan and India are on a war-footing, cross-border shelling across the disputed Kashmir has increased dramatically and dozens of villagers in both India and Pakistan have been killed.

As tensions have escalated residents on both sides of the disputed border have been fleeing.

The Ghaznavi missile is "indigenously developed and the test firing was the culmination of years of hard work, dedication and professional excellence of Pakistani scientists and engineers", said an army statement today.

As the world scrambled to try to avert a war, that could escalate into a nuclear conflagration on the Asian subcontinent, Russian president Vladimir Putin said he would invite the leaders of India and Pakistan to Kazakhstan for one-on-one talks early next month to try to prevent their conflict from escalating.

Pakistan says it is ready to talk, while India says it wants Pakistan to end cross-border incursions by Islamic militants waging a bloody insurgency in Indian-ruled Kashmir, demanding either outright independence for the divided Himalayan State or union with Islamic Pakistan.

US president George Bush on Saturday urged Musharraf to make good on his promise to curb Islamic militancy.

"We're deeply concerned about the rhetoric. It is very important for President Musharraf to ... do what he said he's going to do ... on terror, and that is stop the incursions across the line," Bush said.

The disputed Kashmir, divided between Pakistan and India, has been the flashpoint of two previous wars between the uneasy neighbours in 1948 and in 1965. They fought a third war in 1971 over Bangladesh, or what was then East Pakistan.

Relations between the two neighbours has always been troubled, but tensions soared in December after the Indian parliament was attacked. India blamed Pakistan-based Islamic insurgents.

The threat of war loomed then and India conducted missile tests of its own.

Musharraf went on national television in January and outlawed five militant Islamic groups, easing tensions somewhat. But last week's assault on an Indian army camp that killed 34 people, most of them wives and children of Indian soldiers, sent tensions soaring again. India again accused Pakistani-based militants.

Pakistan says its support is moral and diplomatic and is demanding a vote be held in Kashmir in line with a 1948 United Nations resolution to let Kashmiris decide whether a united Kashmir would join India or Pakistan.