NEW DELHI India said yesterday that it was ready to meet any missile threat from Pakistan, and blamed China for supplying its arch-rival with technology. Responding to Pakistan's announcement that it had successfully test-fired a 1500 km-range missile, India's defence ministry said its medium-range Prithvi missile could reach anywhere in Pakistan. 'We are aware of constant outside assistance to Pakistan in this field, despite the existence of multilateral export-control regimes, unilateral declarations of restraint and supply restrictions on producer countries," the ministry said. "India will draw appropriate conclusions from these developments and take resolute steps to meet any threat to its national security." The United States appealed to both countries yesterday to exercise restraint in their arms programmes and said it was examining whether China had any role in Paldstan's missile project, but stressed that it could not be assumed Bejing was involved. Washington has also accused China of supplying nuclear technology to Pakistan, which both countries have denied. The United States has long been concerned about an arms race on the subcontinent and the possibility that tensions between India and Pakistan could lead to a war, including the use of nuclear weapons.
Both India and Pakistan deny having nuclear weapons but actively pursue atomic energy progmmmes. Western experts say the two, who have gone to war three times since 1947, already have nuclear arms or are capable of assembling them swiftly. India refuses to accept international non-proliferation accords, but has not conducted tests since 1974. Pakistan said its missile test was related primarily to security needs which were threatened by Indian missile development and a pledge by India's new Hindu nationalist-led Government to retain its option to make nuclear weapons. India's 2500 km-range Agni was last tested in early 1994, after which nationalist groups such as the Bharatiya Jannata Party which now leads the coalition Government accused policy-makersof moth-balling the nuclear-capable missile under international pressure. "If it is necessary to test-fire Agni again and again, we will do that" -REUTERS