- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 26, 2002

From combined dispatches
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan Pakistan yesterday and early today test-fired two missiles capable of dropping nuclear warheads on key Indian cities, stoking tension that threatens to erupt into war between the neighboring nations.
Russian President Vladimir Putin, who said after the first test that it added anxiety to an already tense climate, offered to mediate talks between the leaders of the South Asian adversaries during a summit both countries plan to attend next month.
President Bush, speaking after a summit with Mr. Putin in Russia, cautioned against warlike rhetoric and called on Pakistani President Gen. Pervez Musharraf to stop militants from carrying out raids into Indian-controlled territory.
"It's very important that President Musharraf does what he said he was going to do in his speech on terrorism, and that is to stop the incursions across the border," Mr. Bush said in St. Petersburg, forcefully reminding Pakistan's leader that he vowed in January to crack down on militants. "We are deeply concerned about the rhetoric."
India blames Pakistan for backing raids by Islamic guerrillas fighting Indian forces in the Muslim-majority state of Jammu and Kashmir.
The two countries have massed a million troops on their mutual border, backed by missile batteries, tanks and fighter planes, since a deadly raid on India's Parliament in December. New Delhi said Pakistan-based militants were responsible.
Gen. Musharraf declared the first test yesterday of the medium-range surface-to-surface Ghauri missile a success.
"God is greatest," he intoned three times in an address to Islamic scholars broadcast on national television on the anniversary of the birth of Islam's Prophet Mohammed. "We don't want war, but we are not afraid of war."
The firing of the Ghauri missile, which also can carry a conventional warhead, was the first in what Pakistan said would be a series of tests lasting until Tuesday. Pakistan has said the tests are not related to tension with India.
The missile's 950-mile range puts India's heavily populated capital, New Delhi, and financial center, Bombay, along with hundreds of millions of people, within striking distance.
But India, which also described the test as routine, downplayed the exercises.
"We don't take test firing of missiles by Pakistan seriously," the Press Trust of India news agency quoted Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee as saying in the northern town of Manali, where he is on a break until Wednesday.
However, Pakistan went ahead today and successfully test-fired a second ballistic missile, an official statement said. The missile was a newly developed short-range surface-to-surface Hatf-3 (Ghaznavi), the statement said. It was the first test of this second type of missile, which has a range of up to 180 miles.
But the timing of the missile tests, Pakistan's first since 1999, is a defiant gesture that added to world alarm about the situation on the subcontinent.
"Of course the testing, while there is escalating tension, has really aggravated the situation and I'm concerned about that," Mr. Putin said.
Mr. Putin said he hoped Gen. Musharraf and Mr. Vajpayee could sort out differences at the regional conference in Kazakhstan next month. India and Pakistan are scheduled to attend the summit meeting of the Council on Cooperation and Confidence Measures in Asia to be held June 3-5 in Almaty, Kazakhstan.
Pakistan welcomed Mr. Putin's initiative.
"Pakistan has all along been pleading for settlement of all issues with India through dialogue," Foreign Ministry spokesman Aziz Ahmad Khan told the state-run news agency Associated Press of Pakistan.
Indian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Nirupama Rao said Mr. Vajpayee would attend the summit and hold talks with Mr. Putin. But, she added, "There is nothing to suggest that Vajpayee and Musharraf will meet directly."
India repeatedly has rejected Pakistan's call for peace talks, saying it would not do so until Islamabad ends the cross-border insurgency of Pakistan-based Islamic militants.
Yesterday, Indian and Pakistani troops exchanged mortar and small-arms fire along the cease-fire line that divides Kashmir between the two nations, killing at least three suspected Islamic militants and two Indian soldiers, an Indian army spokesman said.
The two sides have traded heavy fire across the Kashmir frontier for more than a week, wounding or killing dozens of civilians and soldiers on both sides. Thousands of civilians have fled front-line villages.
World leaders have been scrambling to avert a war between the nuclear-armed rivals, which fought three wars since independence from Britain in 1947. Tensions escalated last week after suspected Pakistan-based Islamic militants raided an army camp in Indian-controlled Kashmir, killing 34.
Mr. Vajpayee said New Delhi's patience was running out and urged world leaders to step up pressure on Pakistan to act against militants. The Indian prime minister said he had written to Mr. Bush, Mr. Putin and French President Jacques Chirac calling for action.
The European Union, Britain and the United States have begun a diplomatic offensive, with a flurry of visits and phone calls to Mr. Vajpayee, Gen. Musharraf and their top aides.


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