Pakistan test fired a nuclear-capable missile as President Pervez Musharraf said that while the country did not want a conflict with India it was ready for war.
"We do not want war but we are not afraid of war. We are ready for war. Let no one have any misunderstanding about this," he told an Islamic conference in the capital, drawing loud applause from the audience.
Musharraf said Saturday that the test missile "has successfully and accurately hit the target... We should be proud of this achievement. Allah-o-Akbar, Allah-o-Akbar, Allah-o-Akbar (God is great, God is great, God is great)."
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
An official government statement said the test of the medium-range surface-to-surface Hatf-V (Ghauri) ballistic missile "demonstrates Pakistan's determination to defend itself, strengthen national security and consolidate strategic balance in the region".
India reacted angrily to the test, saying it was "not impressed", but Musharraf retorted that it was not meant to impress New Delhi.
"They say they are not impressed. We do not want to impress them. We want to defend our country," Musharraf said.
Pakistan and India have around a million troops massed on their border and have been exchanging bellicose statements and fighting artillery duels in the disputed Himalayan state of Kashmir for the past week.
The stand-off began in December when India blamed Pakistan for an attack on its parliament, and escalated on May 14 when 35 people were killed in a massacre in disputed Kashmir, which New Delhi again blamed on Islamabad.
The threat of war between the nuclear-armed rivals drew intense international pressure on the two capitals, and the United States described Pakistan's announcement that it would conduct a series of missile tests from Saturday through Tuesday as "disappointing".
"They are fully aware of our position, we have made quite clear that we think, given the current situation, the focus should be on steps to reduce tensions in the region," said State Department deputy spokesman Philip Reeker.
"We continue to urge both sides to take steps to restrain their missile programs and their nuclear weapons programs, including that there be no operational deployment of nuclear-armed ballistic missiles," he added.
Pakistan's last ballistic missile tests were in April 1999, although it tested a short-range Hatf I surface-to-surface missile in February 2000.
A senior defense official said the missile tested Saturday had a range of between 1,500 and 2,000 kilometers (about 900 and 1,200 miles) and could carry nuclear warheads.
Pakistan said the tests were routine and had "nothing to do with the current situation", but analysts say they are a clear flexing of muscles by the smaller state after threatening comments by its giant neighbor.
The editor of Pakistan's Defense Magazine, Ikram Sehgal, told AFP: "This is to indicate to India that Pakistan has a very active missile program.
"The timing of these tests is clearly to raise the morale of a nation which is threatened by a neighbor."
Pakistan is under intense political pressure to clamp down on Islamic militants blamed for the attacks on India, as the United States is particularly keen to avoid any conflict which could weaken the international coalition against terrorism.
Copyright 2002 AFP