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Fernandes shrugs off Pak missile test

Islamabad/New Delhi, Oct. 3: Pakistan’s military said it test-fired a short-range ballistic missile today, which it said was capable of carrying nuclear warheads, but India dismissed the test as “nothing special”.

“It has to be seen whether the missile is their (Pakistan’s) own or provided by North Korea or China,” defence minister George Fernandes said in Delhi.

The military described the rocket as the “indigenously-developed” surface-to-surface ballistic missile Hatf-III, also called Ghaznavi. “This was the second test of the Ghaznavi missile which is capable of carrying all types of warheads accurately up to a range of 290 km,” it said in a statement.

In a message to scientists, President Pervez Musharraf said: “The successful test of Ghaznavi missile system bears testimony to the professional excellence of Pakistan scientists and engineers.” Pakistan had first tested Ghaznavi in April last year, following the launch of medium-range, nuclear-capable, surface-to-surface Ghauri II and Shaheen II.

Pakistan said the timing of the test, the first in a series planned for the next few days, was based on the country’s missile defence needs and had nothing to do with developments in the region.

“The timings of the tests reflect Pakistan’s determination not to engage in a tit-for-tat syndrome to other tests in the region,” the military said. “Pakistan will maintain the pace of its own missile development programme and conduct tests as per its technical needs.”

Tensions with nuclear-rival India have eased somewhat this year after the two countries moved close to war in 2002. However, progress towards peace talks has been stymied, partly because of renewed violence in Kashmir.

The test came as Pakistan Prime Minister Mir Zafarullah Khan Jamali visited Washington, where he has been asking for US help to redress what Islamabad sees as an imbalance in conventional arms in the subcontinent.

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