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Pakistan, India test missiles

Islamabad, Oct. 4 (Reuters): Pakistan said it successfully test-fired a medium-range ballistic missile today, six days before holding general elections.

Hours later, India said it test fired a short-range missile.

Analysts said Pakistan’s test was partly a message that its military was capable of defending the country at a time of increased tension with India, and was meant for both external and internal consumption.

Pakistan described the test as routine. “Prior notification of the test had been given to neighbours as well as some friendly countries,” its Inter Services Public Relations Directorate said.

India shrugged off Pakistan’s missile launch and said it was for domestic consumption.

“This particular test is clearly targeted at (the) forthcoming general elections in Pakistan,” foreign ministry spokesperson Nirupama Rao said.

A defence ministry spokesman said the testing of the short-range surface-to-air missile, Akash, was routine and being conducted practically every week. He said it was unrelated to the Pakistani test. “How can it (the Akash test) be connected (to the Pakistani test)'” the spokesman asked.“Its range is 25 km and trials have been going on over a period of time.”

The Pakistani missile was a Hatf-IV (Shaheen-1), which Jane’s Defence Weekly says has a range of 700 km and can carry a 1,000 kg warhead.

Pakistani information minister Nisar Memon called Rao’s comments “flimsy propaganda” and warned India not to interfere in Pakistani’s internal affairs. The foreign office said the test “had nothing to do with the situation in the region”.

“This is purely a technical test and such technical tests are conducted from time to time,” Pakistani foreign office spokesman Aziz Ahmed Khan said.

Former army general and columnist Talat Masood said there was more to the test. “Whereas it is part of a continuous process to validate and revalidate their effectiveness, at this time (ahead of the polls) it also has a political connotation,” he said.“It is also a signal to India.”

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