08/11/2005, 00.00
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India e Pakistan: a hotline against nuclear risks

But Islamabad has just test fired a cruise missile

Islamabad (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Pakistan today tested a cruise missile with a 500km range, equipped to carry nuclear warheads.  Pakistan is a nuclear power as is its neighbour and historical rival India. The governments of both countries recently concluded two days of co-operation talks aimed at averting the risk of nuclear war. On Saturday 6 August in New Delhi, the governments agreed to set up a special telephone line between the Foreign Affairs Ministries of the two countries. "The two counterparts have highlighted the importance of swiftly setting up a special telephone line between the two deputy Ministers for Foreign Affairs to prevent misunderstandings and reduce nuclear risk," read an official statement about the meeting. The scope of the agreement is to avert an outbreak of nuclear war in case a ballistic missile should accidentally reach neighbouring territory during a military exercise.

This timely telephone communication is important as missiles launched by one of the two countries would take only a few minutes to reach the other's territory. However, the Pakistani government did not inform the Indian government it was about to launch today's missile. General Shaukut Sultan, Pakistani military spokesman, justified the test by saying: "We don't have to inform neighbouring countries in this case. It is not a ballistic missile and it doesn't fall under the agreement," he said. Cruise missiles have a remote-controlled trajectory as opposed to ballistic missiles which have a predetermined trajectory.

The two countries, together with Cuba and Israel are the only signatories of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty – signed by 187 countries and entered into force in 1970 – which did not officially condemn the use of nuclear arms. Between 1998 and 2002, they went ahead with a series of military tests using nuclear weapons.

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