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Indian-Pakistani Engagement Can Survive Missile Trials, Analysts Say

Ballistic missile trials conducted by India and Pakistan in the last week pose no danger to new steps the nuclear-armed rivals have taken toward peaceful engagement, Time magazine on Wednesday quoted analysts as saying (see GSN, April 9).

Pakistan on Wednesday said it had test-fired an midrange ballistic missile (see GSN, April 25). Days earlier, India carried out the initial trial flight of a missile capable of delivering nuclear armaments farther than any other weapon in its arsenal (see GSN, April 19).

The experimental flights took place shortly after Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari met on April 8 with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, and as the nations aim to achieve a fourfold increase in the value of their $2.8 billion economic partnership. New Delhi is mulling a possible arrangement to sell energy to Pakistan and has vowed to stop prohibiting Pakistani entities from holding stakes in Indian business enterprises. Separately, Islamabad has indicated it would begin permitting Indian business before 2013 as well as designate its South Asian neighbor as a "Most Favored Nation."

The latest missile trials would not threaten such initiatives, New-Delhi based defense analyst Raja Mohan suggested.

“For India, this is about acquiring some kind of parity with China to develop credible minimum deterrence," he said in reference to last week's launch of the Agni 5 missile.

As Pakistan's capability to deliver warheads to Indian targets dates well back into the previous century, the country did little to upset its power balance with India by vetting a launch vehicle with a marginally greater maximum distance, according to Time.

“It doesn’t matter how many weapons Pakistan has,” Mohan said. “The problem (for India) is that Pakistan supports terrorism.”

New Delhi broke off peace talks with Islamabad for years after Pakistan-based militants carried out an assault that killed more than 160 people in the city of Mumbai.

“The foundation will always be shaky,” Mohan said. “But we are beginning to do new things” (Krista Mahr, Time, April 25).

A former Pakistani army general said such missile trials have emerged as a routine aspect of the regional power dynamic, the Christian Science Monitor reported on Wednesday.

"This is what has been happening over the past few years," Talat Masood told the Associated Press. "The tests by Pakistan and India follow each other to show that their programs are robust" (Scott Baldauf, Christian Science Monitor, April 25).

"(India and Pakistan) have both been pursuing these nuclear and missile programs for some time and will do so for some time to come. India has reached the point where it can target most of China. Pakistan also wants to develop its longer-range weapons and increase its inventory," he added in comments quoted by the London Independent.

Pakistan's firing of the Shaheen 1A missile, shortly after the Indian test,  "could have been coincidence," Masood said. "(But) it may have been a way of saying to the world, 'We have a missile program too'" (Andrew Buncombe, London Independent, April 26).

NTI Analysis

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