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European Concern After India's Missile Test

India's nuclear-capable ballistic missile test brings on sharp criticism from European leaders, while New Delhi's Republic Day celebrations proceed peacefully in the tense region.

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Security was tight at Saturday's Republic Day Parade in New Delhi.

The European Union has aimed strong words at India following the country's testing of a nuclear-capable ballistic missile on Friday.

In a statement issued by the EU's Spanish presidency, the body said the action "carried out risks to give a negative signal to the region and to the international community at a time in which restraint is of utmost importance".

India and Pakistan have been involved in a tense military stand-off following a bloody December 13 attack on India's parliament that it blames on Pakistan.

New Delhi denies its missile test was motivated by the face-off with Pakistan. But political analysts say the move was meant as a warning to its neighbor and a message of defiance to the world.

Nuclear powers Britain and France said the message it sent was the wrong one. "It is not the happiest signal in the present regional context," French Foreign Ministry spokesman Francois Rivasseau said.

Germany's Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer said Berlin "regretted" the test. He expressed particular concern that the missile of the type "Agni I" can carry nuclear warheads. "In view of the current tensions with Pakistan, this test can lead to avoidable misunderstandings," Fischer said.

However, the EU said it is nonetheless confident India and Pakistan will be able to find a peaceful solution to the situation.

Reserved celebrations

The main Republic Day parade in New Delhi, celebrating India's independence from Britain in 1947, was relatively muted on Saturday. Normally a proud display of military might, this year for the first time no troops from the army, navy or air force marched down the stately Rajpath boulevard and there was no heavy armor.

Most troops and equipment are currently deployed along the border with Pakistan.

Across the nation, tens of thousands of police and paramilitary troops on full alert guarded ceremonies and key buildings. But no violence was reported.

Pakistan calls for end to tensions

Pakistan's military ruler General Pervez Musharraf called for talks to end the two countries' tense military stand-off. In a message to Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee to mark Republic Day, Musharraf said Pakistan wanted to "commence together a journey of peace and progress".

"I would like to reiterate our readiness to engage in a serious and sustained dialog with India," he said in a statement published by the APP news agency.

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