India test-fires cruise missile capable of hitting Pakistan
NEW DELHI, India -- India conducted its fourth missile test this year Wednesday, firing a supersonic cruise missile capable of hitting major cities in Pakistan. Islamabad denounced the test as a sign of New Delhi's "massive militarization."
The test comes at a time of tension between the two nuclear armed nations. India and Pakistan have fought three wars since British colonialists left the South Asian subcontinent in 1947 and came close to a fourth one last year.
India's defense minister, George Fernandes, said the Brahmos missile was launched off an Indian Navy destroyer and accurately hit its target. The army said it hopes to deploy the anti-ship missile next year.
India developed the missile with Russia's help. The two countries say they plan to export the missile to developing countries. The Brahmos has a range of 185 miles and has a payload of 440 pounds but cannot carry a nuclear warhead. It flies at more than 1,400 mph, twice the speed of sound.
India, like Pakistan, also possesses ballistic missiles that are capable of carrying both conventional and nuclear warheads and can strike deep within the neighboring country.
A cruise missile travels horizontally. A ballistic missile travels in a parabolic arc.
Late last month, India conducted two tests of an Akash surface-to-air missile. Earlier in January it test-launched a more powerful short-range ballistic missile, the Agni-I, which is capable of carrying nuclear weapons.
Pakistan too has conducted a series of missile tests in recent months. India says Pakistan's missile program is heavily aided by China and North Korea.
India and Pakistan rushed 1 million troops to their 1,800-mile border last year. The buildup followed a Dec. 13, 2001 attack on India's Parliament that New Delhi blamed on Kashmiri separatists it says Pakistan supports. Tensions remain high.
Last week India ordered a senior Pakistani diplomat out of the country after accusing him of giving money to the separatists. Four Pakistan Embassy employees were also expelled. It was the second round of expulsions in as many months.
Kashmir is a disputed province split between India and Pakistan, and Muslim separatists are fighting to win independence or alignment with Pakistan.
India and Pakistan conducted rival nuclear tests in 1998, and often match each other's missile tests within days of each other.
A spokesman for Pakistan's Foreign Ministry, Kamran Niaz, refused to say whether Islamabad would respond with a test of its own.
"We know that India has a policy of massive militarization. They are developing missiles of all sorts," Niaz said.
In Washington, Andrew Koch, bureau chief for Jane's Defense Weekly, said the test was a major achievement for the Indian missile program.
"It gives them much greater range, it gives them much greater speed and lethality," he said. Koch said the missile test was just part of a larger plan to upgrade the navy.
The world condemned the 1998 nuclear tests and put sanctions on both countries. But the economic penalties were lifted after Pakistan became a key ally of the anti-terrorist coalition following the Sept. 11 attacks.