ISLAMABAD, Pakistan, AP
Pakistan conducted the first in a series of missile tests Saturday amid growing fears of a war with neighbor India that could result in the use of nuclear weapons in South Asia, which is home to more than 1.2 billion people.
“We don’t want war, but we are ready for war,” Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf said after the test.
The medium-range Ghauri missile, fired at 910 a.m. at an undisclosed site, flew 1,500 kilometers (900 miles) — far enough to reach deep into India. It can carry both a conventional and nuclear warhead.
The missile “showed total accuracy. It hit the target,” Musharraf said at a religious gathering to mark the birthday of Islamic prophet Mohammed.
Musharraf followed the announcement by saying “Allah-o-Akbar” three times, meaning “God is great.”
The launch was Pakistan’s first major missile test since April 1999 and comes as both India and Pakistan are on a war footing. They have massed about 1 million troops at their border, and tensions in the disputed Himalayan state of Kashmir are at a peak.
The test “demonstrates Pakistan’s determination to defend itself,” the Pakistani army said in a statement. However, it said the tests were routine and that they were “concerning technical matters.”
Both India and Pakistan conducted nuclear tests in 1998, and both say they have added nuclear weapons to their arsenal. It’s not known with certainty how many each country has, but both countries possess missiles capable of carrying both conventional and nuclear warheads.
Pakistan said Friday it would conduct several missile tests from Saturday to Tuesday. India said it was unfazed.
“The government of India is not particularly impressed by these missile antics, clearly targeted at the domestic audience in Pakistan,” Indian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Nirupama Rao said Friday, adding that the tests were routine “and not central to the current situation.” On Saturday New Delhi said it had no further comment to make about the tests.
Threats of war have clouded relations between the two nuclear neighbors since last December’s attack on the Indian Parliament. India blamed Pakistani-based militants waging a bloody insurgency in Indian ruled Kashmir.