India and Pakistan have agreed to develop a formal system for early notification of missile tests after a summer of high-level diplomacy between the long-standing South Asian rivals.
The measure was the most concrete achievement of a series of talks since the election of a new Indian government in May. (See ACT, July/August 2004.) Those talks culminated in a 90-minute meeting July 23 between Indian Foreign Minister K. Natwar Singh and Pakistani President Gen. Pervez Musharraf at Musharraf’s official Army House residence in Islamabad. Other talks have included an informal meeting of Singh and his Pakistani counterpart, Khurshid Mahmood Kasuri, and discussions between the two countries’ top career diplomats.
Despite the diplomatic progress, both countries have continued to jockey for strategic advantage. Musharraf announced June 30 that Islamabad will soon undertake an “extremely important, substantive [missile] test.” No specifics were released. The announcement followed a series of missile tests undertaken by India and Pakistan since the new Indian government took power. Both countries, however, asserted that they do not view these tests as threats and are committed to continuing to build on their improved relations with one another. (See ACT, July/August 2004.)
In early July, India released its proposed budget for fiscal year 2005, which includes a 27-percent increase in military spending from the previous year to $16.8 billion. India has been discussing enhancing various defense capabilities, including the development of a unit armed with nuclear-capable missiles. Pakistan expressed concern about India’s proposed military budget hike. The increase could “wittingly or unwittingly accelerate the arms race between the countries, which we could have avoided,” said Pakistani Foreign Ministry spokesperson Masood Khan July 12.
Still, Singh characterized his late July meetings as constructive and positive, asserting that he left Pakistan with “renewed determination to work with Pakistan to normalize our relations and resolve our differences.”
A formal meeting between the foreign ministers of each country will be held in New Delhi Sept. 5-6 to review the progress of their bilateral dialogue.