ISLAMABAD (Reuters) – Pakistan successfully test-fired on Saturday a ballistic missile capable of carrying nuclear warheads, as part of efforts to boost defenses in its rivalry with India.
The test of the Ghauri (Hatf V) missile, capable of carrying all types of warheads and traveling up to 930 miles, came a week after a new government took office in India.
A Pakistani military statement said Prime Minister Zafarullah Khan Jamali watched the test-firing, but did not say where the test was carried out.
“The Prime Minister made it clear that Pakistan’s edge over its adversaries in the strategic field will be maintained at all costs,” the statement said, in an implicit reference to India.
“(The) government will provide necessary resources to maintain the quality of the nation’s defense.”
There was no immediate reaction from India, but an Indian defense ministry official told Reuters the test had been expected.
Pakistan says its weapons program is a response to that of India, with which it has fought three wars since both countries won independence from Britain in 1947.
Analysts said the test was a signal to the Indian government that Pakistan would not lower its guard, despite tentative peace moves.
“It’s meant to meet technical requirements, ease domestic pressure on peace with India and also convey to the new Indian government that we are going to remain militarily strong,” former military Gen. Kamal Matinuddin said.
“It’s a combination of all.”
Pakistan test-fired the Shaheen II ballistic missile, with a range of 1,250 miles, in March. It said it was capable of carrying nuclear warheads to every corner of India.
Ghauri and Shaheen are different versions of a Pakistani missile series named Hatf, which is a reference to an ancient Islamic weapon.
INDIA ALSO DEVELOPING MISSILES
New Delhi has itself been developing a range of missiles capable of delivering nuclear warheads, and plans to test this year the longest-range version yet of Agni, its nuclear-capable ballistic missile.
Pakistan had informed its neighbors about the test beforehand, the military statement said.
Relations between the nuclear-armed rivals, which went to the brink of a fourth war in 2002, have warmed in recent months and both have vowed to carry forward a fledgling peace process despite the change in government in India.
Pakistan first test-fired the Ghauri missile in April, 1998. Both countries then carried out nuclear tests the following month. The Ghauri missiles were formally inducted into the military in January 2003.
The military statement said the latest test was designed to confirm improvements to the Pakistani missile system.
The Ghauri missile was developed by Khan Research Laboratories, Pakistan’s main uranium-enrichment facility, which was named for Abdul Qadeer Khan, once revered as the father of the country’s atom bomb.
But Khan was sacked this year from his job as a special government adviser after he admitted to exporting nuclear secrets to Iran, Libya and North Korea.
Some experts say the Ghauri missile was developed with North Korean help in return for nuclear know-how. (Additional reporting by Sanjeev Miglani in NEW DELHI)