As the military crisis with India over Kashmir deepened, Pakistan today started the first of a series of tests of short-range and medium-range missiles.
The Indian Foreign Ministry said it was "not particularly impressed by these missile antics, clearly targeted at the domestic audience in Pakistan". The Indian Prime Minister, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, sent a letter to world leaders explaining why his country appeared close to war with its neighbor, given that conflict could grow rapidly into a nuclear exchange. "We have exercised restraint all these months in the face of requests by the international community that we would see a change in Pakistan's attitude," Mr Vajpayee wrote, according to a paraphrase by an Indian foreign ministry spokeswoman, Nirupama Rao.
An army vehicle, carrying the long range surface-to-surface Ghauri missile, passes a portrait of the nation's founder Mohammad Ali Jinnah, during a military parade to mark Pakistan day in Islamabad in this March 23, 1999 file photo. Pakistan test fired a surface-to-surface Ghauri missile on May 25, 2002, a military official said, as tension with India simmered over disputed Kashmir. REUTERS/Mohsin Ali/File
"That hasn't happened ... There is a sense of anger in this country, and public opinion is united on the need to bring an end to this."
Ms Rao said the letter had been sent to Tony Blair; the American President, George Bush; the French President, Jacques Chirac; and the Russian President, Vladimir Putin.
The test of a medium range, surface-to-surface ballistic missile, known as the Ghauri missile was completed this morning. Pakistan President General Pervez Musharraf said it had been fired for 900 miles,"showed total accuracy. It hit the target".
The Ghauri missile is capable of carrying both a conventional and nuclear warhead.
After his three-day tour of Kashmir, during which he urged soldiers on the front line to "wage a decisive battle", Mr Vajpayee, 77, has retired to the hill station of Manali in the mountains of Himachal Pradesh for a working holiday.
Yesterday the threat of war, which was imminent earlier in the week, appeared to recede somewhat. In Kashmir, Mr Vajpayee had also chaired a meeting of the Unified Command, attended by ministers and top generals. According to the Hindustan Times, the meeting decided "that India could give Pakistan about two months to roll back cross-border terrorism" before state assembly elections, which are to be held in September.
The perennially grim relations between the former components of Britain's Indian Empire sharply deteriorated this month after Islamic militants who had arrived from Pakistan burst into an Indian army camp in Kashmir, killing more than 30 people before being shot dead themselves. Most of those who died were soldiers' wives and children.
The West and India have been exerting enormous pressure on General Musharraf, to put an end to the infiltration of militants into Indian Kashmir.
Pakistan consistently denies training, financing and transporting the militants, though diplomats side with India on the question.
In a speech in January, Pakistan's military ruler undertook to clamp down on fundamentalism in Pakistan and halt Islamic terrorism. The recent massacre confirmed India's belief that he is either unwilling or unable to fulfill that promise. India has now persuaded itself that only the threat of a devastating attack will suffice to make him keep his word.
For his part, General Musharraf has made clear that he would defend "every inch of Pakistani soil" if attacked. His only realistic hope of doing so, given India's enormously superior strength in men and military supplies, is through nuclear weapons.
General Musharraf said this week: "Nobody no sane person would like to go to war. But certainly the tensions are high and it's dangerous, because India has massed its troops on the border ... We hope good sense prevails on both sides. We would like to co-operate, certainly, because we don't want war."
Colin Powell, The American Secretary of State, urged both sides to step back. "It's very dangerous, but I hope both sides realize they're at a very critical point," he said.
Chris Patten, the EU commissioner for foreign affairs, arrived in Delhi yesterday, the first of a stream of high-level officials to brave the 45C temperatures in the hope of talking India and Pakistan back from the brink. Others will include Jack Straw, the Foreign Secretary, and the US deputy secretary of state, Richard Armitage.
Mr Patten said: "India's patience is close to breaking point. I think the situation, and I say this with anything but pleasure, is as hot as the weather and on the knife edge."
Ms Rao said Mr Patten told Jaswant Singh, the Indian Foreign Minister, that it was "absolutely essential that Pakistan reduce infiltration and terrorist violence in Jammu-Kashmir as a first step towards reducing tension on the subcontinent".
© 2002 Independent Digital (UK) Ltd