NEW DELHI — With relations with its longtime enemy, Pakistan, at an acrimonious ebb, India on Wednesday displayed for the first time its most sophisticated tactical battlefield missile, the sleek-nosed Prithvi.
A pair of the truck-mounted weapons, dabbed with olive-drab and beige camouflage paint, rolled slowly through the center of the capital as the star participants in the annual Republic Day parade of India's military might.
Western military attaches said the Prithvi (Hindi for "Earth" or "globe"), with a maximum range of 150 miles and a payload of up to 2,200 pounds, is similar to a small Scud. They differed over whether the public debut of the surface-to-surface weapon was meant as saber-rattling for Pakistan's benefit but agreed that it will hardly defuse tensions.
"It's certainly a display of political determination," one attache said.
India was careful not to reveal everything, however. The jet nozzles of the 28-foot-long missile had been concealed with a cover. Viewing them would have allowed specialists to deduce how the rocket was guided and also its degree of accuracy, one defense expert said.
And authorities kept security extremely tight at Republic Day festivities, held to mark the anniversary of the 1950 constitution that transformed this former British colony into a sovereign democratic republic.
Indo-Pakistani relations have deteriorated badly since widespread insurgency broke out four years ago in Kashmir, the only state of India where Muslims are the majority.
A third of the former Himalayan principality is held by Pakistan.
The countries have already fought two wars over Kashmir, and attempts earlier this month to narrow differences through negotiations were a fiasco.
India accuses Pakistan of arming and supporting the militants in Kashmir who are fighting to overthrow Indian rule and either create an independent nation or unify with Pakistan.
Last Monday, India submitted half a dozen proposals to Pakistan, including a pledge by both sides not to use nuclear weapons first.
That same day, however, Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto indicated that there was little room for compromise.
She accused India of waging a campaign of repression in the disputed state and declared: "Kashmir is the jugular vein of Pakistan, and the day is not far off when it will be a part of this country."
She also called for a "total strike" for Feb. 5 in her country and in Kashmir to show popular support for a Pakistani-endorsed plebiscite that would ask Kashmiris to choose whether to remain in India.
The military capabilities of India and Pakistan make the conflict over Kashmir a possible high-stakes one and have sparked growing concern by the United States and other Western nations.