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Pakistan hits out at 'detrimental' Indian nuclear sub

Pakistan hit out at India on Tuesday, branding its first nuclear-powered submarine "detrimental" to regional peace and vowing to take "appropriate steps" to maintain a "strategic balance".

world Updated: Jul 28, 2009 18:05 IST

Pakistan hit out at India on Tuesday, branding its first nuclear-powered submarine "detrimental" to regional peace and vowing to take "appropriate steps" to maintain a "strategic balance".

Relations between nuclear-armed rivals India and Pakistan have plummeted since Islamist gunmen killed 166 people in Mumbai last November, attacks that New Delhi blamed on banned Pakistani group Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT).

"Continued induction of new lethal weapon systems by India is detrimental to regional peace and stability," the foreign ministry said.

Arch-rival India on Sunday launched the first of five planned submarines by naming the 6,000-tonne INS Arihant (Destroyer of Enemies), powered by an 85-megawatt nuclear reactor that can reach 44 kilometres an hour (24 knots).

The submarine will be armed with torpedoes and ballistic missiles, and carry a crew of 95, according to Indian defence officials.

"Pakistan believes that maintenance of strategic balance is essential for peace and security in south Asia," the foreign ministry said.

"Without entering into an arms race with India, Pakistan will take all appropriate steps to safeguard its security and maintain strategic balance."

The Pakistan navy also voiced concern.

"It is a matter of serious concern not only for Pakistan but also for all littoral states in the Indian Ocean and beyond," a spokesman said.

"All littoral states, including Pakistan, have to take necessary safeguards in the wake of new induction in its navy by India."

India is part of an exclusive group of nations, including Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States, which own nuclear-powered submarines.

The vessel will undergo two years of sea trials in the Bay of Bengal before being commissioned for full service.

India conducted its first nuclear weapons tests in 1974. Pakistan then launched its own atomic weapons drive and tested its first devices in 1998.

But analysts in Pakistan brushed aside concerns of an arms race or renewed threat of war in south Asia sparked by India's new submarine technology.

"It is not something we should worry about," leading Pakistani analyst on defence and security issues, Ayesha Siddiqa, told AFP.

"We are and have always been in a position to neutralise the Indian threat in case of a war," she said.

"Its impact will be primarily on Sino-India relations and not India-Pakistan ties," she added, referring to India's dominant neighbour China.

India and Pakistan have gone to war three times since 1948 -- twice over the disputed territory Kashmir. Pakistan lost each time, culminating with the loss of a sixth of its land as East Pakistan became Bangladesh in 1971.

In 2002, India and Pakistan went to the brink of nuclear war as hundreds of thousands of soldiers were mobilised. It took direct intervention of then-US secretary of state Colin Powell to avert conflict.

Despite the tensions since the Mumbai attacks, recent meetings Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has had with Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari and with Pakistani counterpart Yousuf Raza Gilani have renewed hopes of a thaw.

New Delhi insists it will resume talks to normalise ties only after Islamabad brings to justice the alleged perpetrators of the Mumbai attacks.

Pakistan has gone further than ever before to arrest LeT members, close the charity considered its front and arrest suspects, but has yet to put them on trial and the charity has reportedly resurfaced under a new guise.