Tensions heat up in Pakistan-India arms race

By Laurinda Keys
Saturday October 05, 2002

NEW DELHI, India — Pakistan and India, nuclear-armed rivals who came to the brink of war only four months ago, staged tit-for-tat missile tests Friday, increasing tensions and raising fears of a renewed arms race. 

India’s government called Pakistan’s test a publicity stunt ahead of next week’s general elections, the first since a 1999 military coup. 

Pakistan’s information minister, Nisar Memon, said India was trying to “turn this into an arms race” by testing a sophisticated surface-to-air missile the same day Pakistan tested a nuclear-capable surface-to-surface missile. 

The two countries have had 1 million soldiers on alert along their 1,800-mile frontier for most of the year and were close to all-out conflict in June before the United States, Britain and Russia mounted a diplomatic campaign to curb the hostilities. 

Both India and Pakistan portrayed their tests as routine and noted they had told each other of the plans in advance to avoid any misunderstanding. 

India said it conducted two missile tests last week without fanfare or criticism, and Defense Minister George Fernandes said there was no reason for concern. 

“I don’t see any reason why we should be worried about Pakistan conducting tests,” Fernandes said Friday in Bombay. “They have their missiles and they are testing (them). We have our missiles and we also do tests. 

“To tackle the situation today we must have the same strength that our neighbors have,” he said.