India and Pakistan agree on ballistic missile tests

India and Pakistan on Monday signed a deal requiring them to notify each other of plans for ballistic missile tests, a key step in the peace process between the two nuclear-armed rivals.

Indian External Affairs Minister Natwar Singh and his Pakistani counterpart, Khursheed Kasuri, announced the agreement after talks that they described as cordial and constructive. Groundwork for the deal was laid in talks in the Indian capital of New Delhi last month. "The agreement entails that both countries provide each other advance notification of flight tests that it intends to undertake of any surface-to-surface ballistic missile," the Indian side said in a statement.

"India has now handed over a draft memorandum of understanding on measures to reduce the risks of accidental or unauthorized use of nuclear weapons under the control of both countries," the statement said. India did not elaborate on the draft document, but officials have said they plan to set up a hotline to reduce the possibility of a misunderstanding that could lead to nuclear conflict. India and Pakistan already operate one hotline between senior army commanders. India also said the two countries signed a memorandum of understanding that would establish a hotline between their coast guards. Such a communication link could speed up the repatriation of fishermen from both countries who often stray across the border in the Arabian Sea, reports the AP. I.L.

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