In a move that could further undermine efforts to avert an arms race in South Asia, the Pakistani military appears to be preparing to test fire one of its short-range missiles, a senior Clinton administration official says.
"We do have evidence that they may be preparing a further missile test," the official, speaking on condition he not be identified, said Thursday.The missile set for a test launch is called the Tarmuk, which has a range of 400 to 600 kilometers, or 250 to 375 miles, the official said. The missile, if test launched, would be armed with a dummy warhead or no warhead. Still, the fear is that India would view the test as a provocation.
"It would be a further escalation" of tensions between India and Pakistan, the official said.
India and Pakistan are within easy striking range of each other by ballistic missile.
The report of a possible Pakistani missile test came just hours after the world's five long-standing nuclear powers - the United States, Russia, Britain, France and China - met in Geneva, Switzerland and issued a joint declaration urging India and Pakistan to step back from the nuclear brink.
In their joint statement, the five powers specifically called on India and Pakistan to refrain from deploying or testing missiles capable of delivering nuclear weapons. They also said India and Pakistan should stop all further nuclear test explosions and not produce any nuclear warheads.
India set off the crisis by conducting underground nuclear tests on May 11 and 13. Pakistan responded with two tests of its own.
Also Thursday, John Gannon, head of the CIA's National Intelligence Council, said the agency must stop dwelling on its failure to forecast India's nuclear tests. Instead, he said, the CIA must concentrate on implementing improvements outlined by an independent review panel chaired by retired Adm. David Jeremiah.
"Our failure to predict India's nuclear tests that day leaves no room for defensiveness in a professional workplace," Gannon said. "I and my colleagues . . . accept the findings of the Jeremiah report and will move expeditiously to implement its recommendations."
"As the Jeremiah report makes clear, we need to work much harder to weigh all the alternative scenarios in our business," Gannon told the World Affairs Council of Washington.
But he said predicting the course of South Asia won't be easy. "The potential for miscalculation, particularly in the highly charged domestic political environments of the two countries, seems very real," he said.