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India cool on Hatf-III firing, intends no arms race

Pakistan's test firing Hatf-III will not kick off a missile race in the subcontinent.

This, defence experts, say is evident from the calm reaction of both the countries. However, it does need a 'measured response from India', they said.

Comparing statements issued by Islamabad and New Delhi in the wake of the test firing, experts said caution and restraint were the hallmarks of both countries.

India had merely said it would draw appropriate conclusions and remain prepared to safeguard its security against all eventualities, the experts pointed out.

Pakistan, on its part, confirmed the reports, though they did not reveal the missile's range. The firing was a routine test conducted by the Karachi-based Space and Upper Atmosphere Research Commission for peaceful purposes, Pak authorities said.

The expert's optimism that a missile race will not result bases itself heavily on India's known policy with regard to missile development. Its stand is that it will develop missiles only in response to the 'evolving security environment in the region.'

Defence experts were of the view that the proliferation of missiles in the south Asian region was something which could not be wished away. The whole issue had to be seen in a broader south Asian framework and not merely in the India-Pakistan context.

They pointed out that missiles were there right from Saudi Arabia to the Indo-Myanmar border and China -- and they were there to stay.

The Hatf-III firing, experts say, should be viewed from three angles -- the Sino-Pak relation, Sino-US relation and US-Pak relation.

They said it was impossible to discuss the implications which Hatf-III had for India as its parameters were not known. But if it did have a range of 800 kilometres as reported, then Islamabad would be able to target cities and strategic centres deep inside Indian territory.

India envisages developing Prithvi, Trishul, Akash and Nag missiles, and the intermediate range technology demonstrator Agni. While Trishul, Akash and Nag are in various stages of development, the Prithvi project has been successfully completed.

The government's position on Agni is that the 're-entry technology demonstrator project' is over. Further development of Agni, officials say, will be decided on the basis of threat perception.

Experts expect domestic pressure on the Indian government for reviving the Agni project to mount now, particularly as the parliamentary committee on defence has recommended the project's revival.

Pakistan has been relentlessly seeking international cooperation, mainly from China, to develop missiles capable of matching Prithvi's potency. Recently, it had raised much hue and cry about the alleged deployment of Prithvi along its border.

Prime Minister I K Gujral had categorically denied that Prithvi was deployed anywhere in India.

Pakistan's collaboration with China on the Hatf missiles, reports indicate, has been on for the past 15 years. China is understood to have assisted Pakistan in the full range of missile development, right from transfer of sub-systems and technologies for propellant production to inertial guidance systems.

The Pakistani missile programme shot to prominence in 1988 when it announced that the Hatf-I and Hatf-II has a range of about 280 km.

The widely-circulated Pakistani Urdu daily Nawa-e-waqt was the first to report, on July 2, that the Muslim country had successfully completed the test firing.

On July 3, Pakistan confirmed it had indeed test fired the Hatf missile.

Meanwhile, the United States is still mum on the incident. China, too, prefers to keep its counsel, merely saying that the reports were unclear.


EARLIER STORY: Prithvi warhead successful

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