Pakistan test-fires third missile in two weeks

Tuesday, October 14th 2003, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan (AP) _ The Pakistani military test-fired a mid-range missile on Tuesday that can fly 435 miles and hit many targets in India, the country's main rival. The launch was the last in a series of three tests this month, it said.

Longer-range missiles will be tested in the future, the army said in a statement.

The medium-range, surface-to-surface Hatf-4, also known as the Shaheen-1, was successfully test-fired Tuesday from an undisclosed location, the army said.

The Indian Defense Ministry had no immediate comment on the test. Pakistan has insisted the tests are not aimed at its rival despite simmering tensions.

India and Pakistan, both nuclear-armed countries, are bitter rivals who have fought three wars since their 1947 independence from Britain.

Media have reported that a long-range Shaheen-2 missile would be tested in coming days. It has a range of about 1,200 miles and has never been test-fired.

Pakistan began its latest test series on Oct. 3 by firing a short-range Hatf-3 Ghaznavi missile, which has a range of 180 miles. It fired another Hatf-4 on Oct. 8.

Officials have said such tests aim to validate the designs of their missile systems.

``While the successful flight tests are a reflection of Pakistan's technical prowess in the field of missile technology ... they also reflect Pakistan's resolve and determination to continue to consolidate its minimum deterrence needs and national security,'' the army statement said.

The latest series was the first since March. Islamabad has insisted the test launches have nothing to do with simmering tensions with India.

Pakistan's Foreign Minister Khursheed Kasuri said on Monday that the tests were part of the regular schedule of its weapons program, and not in response to any moves by India.

``We fired two; we may fire some more as well,'' said Kasuri, who was in Malaysia for a major meeting of Islamic countries. ``But it is not tit-for-tat. We have our own timetable.''

India and Pakistan have fought two out of their three wars over Kashmir, a Himalayan area divided between them but claimed by both in its entirety.

The two countries have used weapons tests in the past to send political messages to each other.

In 1998, both nations shocked the world with dueling nuclear tests that earned years of sanctions. They nearly went to war in 2002 after an attack on India's parliament that New Delhi blamed on Pakistan-backed Islamic militants. Pakistan denied the charge.