Ritual Aggression: India and Pakistan's missile tests, following peace talks (+video)
Pakistan and India test ballistic missiles to demonstrate military might. But these tests have become separate from politics, in which both countries appear to be developing closer ties.
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On Wednesday, Pakistan successfully tested its new and improved Hatf Shaheen 1-A ballistic missile, which is capable of carrying the nuclear weapons that Pakistan has demonstrated it is capable of producing. The Pakistan missile test comes just days after India tested its own improved ballistic missile, the Agni-V, which is capable of carrying nuclear payloads as far away as Beijing or Shanghai.
But the fact that these tests are seen by the news media of each country as no big deal is an indication of how much the political mood in each country has changed over the past decade.
These tests follow an extraordinary set of meetings between the president of Pakistan, Asif Ali Zardari, and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in Delhi earlier this month, in which the two nations pledged to increase trade ties and to fight against extremism.
While these missile testsmight have seemed to be a setback in earlier times, they have now become a kind of kabuki theater of virility, separate from any political discourse. Light up one of those multimillion-dollar candles, and you can demonstrate to the world that your nation is not to be messed with. You can also know that your neighbor will quickly follow your test with one of his own.
(There is a second cheaper test of virility, of course. It’s called cricket.)
Retired Pakistan army Gen. Talat Masood, now an independent analyst, says that these tests have now become a predictable part of South Asian politics.
"This is what has been happening over the past few years," said Masood in an interview with the Associated Press. "The tests by Pakistan and India follow each other to show that their programs are robust."