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Indian Test Pressures Pakistan

The Pakistani government was under domestic pressuren Monday to match a Sunday missile test by India that jolted peace moves between the two arch-foes.

"It is necessary that the government should respond immediately, so that they can boost the morale of the people," deputy chief of Pakistan's main Islamist Jamaat-i-Islami party, Liaqat Baluch, said.

There was no immediate indication that Pakistan would carry out a tit-for-tat test-firing of its own Ghauri or Shaheen missiles, but Foreign Minister Sartaj Aziz said Sunday that Islamabad's response would be "befitting."

Baluch said it was evident that India had aggressive designs on the entire region and for this purpose was making advances in the missile technology field, despite recent peace talks between the two governments.

"I stress that Pakistan should not come under pressure. It should continue with its nuclear program and its missile program," he said.

Diplomats said Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif was under the same kind of pressure that followed India's nuclear tests last May. Pakistan followed with trials of its own, earning crippling Western sanctions and the wrath of a worried world.

Diplomats said Sharif was likely to face pressure from the powerful military to match the test of India's upgraded Agni ballistic missile, said to have a 1,375-mile range.

Former military chief Mirza Aslam Beg was reported in local newspapers as saying that Pakistan should test a newer version of its Ghauri missile or the first version of the Shaheen missile, both of which were displayed in a parade in March.

"The test-firing of India's missile is aimed at maintaining its dominance in the region," said Beg, calling for an early test in response.

Last month, Pakistan displayed its longest-range (940 miles) ballistic Ghauri missile, which can carry a nuclear warhead and a payload of 1,540 pounds, at a national day parade. It was tested in April 1998.

Shaheen-I is reported to have a range of 470 miles and a payload of 2,200 lbs.

If it chooses to respond, Pakistan has three options, military experts said: to fire Ghauri II with an increased range of 1,050 to 1,250 miles; to fire Shaheen I, which is reported to be almost test-ready; or to fire Shaheen II, with a range of 1,440 miles and a 2,200-lb. payload.

Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee paid a historic bus trip to the Pakistani city of Lahore in February that resulted in a public commitment in a declaration by the two nations, which have fought three wars, to work for regional peace and avoid escalating military tension.

India appeared to have followed the letter of the Lahore Declaration by informing Pakistan two days in advance of its test. But the test chimed badly with the spirit of the declaration, which pledged the neighbors to work for peace and prosperity and to solve disputes by negotiations.

By Tahir Ikram