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"Though we have acheived progress, our work is not over. That is why I support the mission of the Arms Control Association. It is, quite simply, the most effective and important organization working in the field today." 

– Larry Weiler
Former U.S.-Russian arms control negotiator
August 7, 2018
India, Pakistan Trade Tit-for-Tat Missile Tests
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Rose Gordon

Returning to an old pattern of tit-for-tat missile testing, India and Pakistan each tested short-range, nuclear-capable missiles March 26. It is not clear who launched the first missile, but most media reports suggest India took the lead.

Since the back-to-back 1998 nuclear tests, a missile test by one state has usually prompted the other to respond with its own test in a face-off of missile strength and capability. This January and February, however, India tested four missiles without any response from Pakistan. (See ACT, March 2003.)

Both countries signed a joint memorandum of understanding in Lahore, Pakistan, in 1999, which requires that prior notice be given before a ballistic missile test takes place. This memorandum was signed shortly after the 1998 nuclear tests in order to engage the two states in confidence-building measures to limit the threat of an actual nuclear showdown. In a March 26 statement, however, the Pakistani Ministry of Foreign Affairs said Pakistan did not receive notice from India this time and that the missile test came as a surprise.

A spokesman with the Indian embassy in Washington said India informed “all relevant entities.”

In response to a question about the possible lack of notification on India’s side, an official Indian spokesperson said in a March 26 press briefing, “The confidence-building measure which will really have any meaning is for Pakistan to end its senseless perpetration of terrorism against India.” India blames Pakistan for directly supporting militants who oppose Indian rule in its portion of the disputed Kashmir territory; Pakistan denies direct involvement.

It is unclear how far Pakistan has progressed in developing the Abdali missile that Pakistan tested March 26. The Prithvi-I that India tested, however, has been inducted into the Indian armed forces, according to a March 5 statement by Indian Defense Minister George Fernandes.

India is developing and testing five different missile systems under its Integrated Guided Missile Development Program (IGMDP). When the defense department determines that a particular missile has passed the required test, the missile might be put into production for use—induction—into the military. Several of the five systems are currently in the process of being inducted into the armed forces, including the Prithvi-II, the Dhanush, and both variants of the Agni missile, Fernandes said.

It is unclear when the Agni missiles will be available for military use. The Agni-I and Agni-II missiles are “under production,” Fernandes said in the March 5 statement. This is the second time that Fernandes has said that the 2,000-kilometer range Agni-II is ready for production and induction. In March 2002, he stated that the Agni-II “entered [the] production phase and is currently under induction.”

A third, longer-range variant of the Agni—the Agni-III—has not yet been tested, and it is unclear how far along it is in development.