Pakistan conducted a second test of a nuclear-capable ballistic missile in less than a week on Friday, but officials said it was not meant as a message to rival India’s new government.
On Saturday, Pakistan test fired a Ghauri missile capable of carrying nuclear and other warheads up to 900 miles.
A military statement said a second test of the same missile was carried out as part of a series of tests planned for the missile system.
“All additional design parameters, for which this test was planned, were validated in entirety,” it said.
The recent tests came just after a new Indian government assumed office and Pakistan and India prepare for talks later this month on ways to reduce the risks from their nuclear rivalry, part of a peace process relaunched last year.
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.
But President Pervez Musharraf, who watched the test-firing of the missile, suggested the latest missile tests had more to do with his domestic critics than rivals outside the country.
“The President said that the test was not intended to send any political signals outside the country but was necessary for validation of technical parameters,” the military statement said.
“However, he did want some of the traditional domestic cynics to take note that under his stewardship, the nuclear program had gone from strength to strength.”
“(It) had been consolidated to a point where its forward direction was clearly defined and irreversible.”
Hardline Islamic groups accuse Musharraf, a key ally in the U.S.-led war on terror, of compromising the country’s nuclear program after the unravelling of a huge global proliferation scandal late last year involving Pakistan’s top nuclear scientist Abdul Qadeer Khan.
The Ghauri missile was developed by Khan Research Laboratories, Pakistan’s main uranium-enrichment facility, which was named after Khan.
He 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.
Pakistan test-fired the Shaheen II ballistic missile, with a range of 1,250 miles, in March. It said the missile was capable of carrying nuclear warheads to all of India.
India and Pakistan have fought three wars since independence from Britain in 1947 and went to the brink of a fourth in 2002, when New Delhi blamed Pakistan-based militants of a bloody attack on its parliament.
But ties have warmed since last year and both countries have pledged to carry forward a tentative peace process despite the recent change of government in India.
Pakistan said it had informed its neighbors in advance of the latest test.
India, which has its own ambitious missile program, has yet to comment on the latest test but has expressed concern about past Pakistani launches.
Pakistani and Indian officials are due to meet in Delhi on June 19 and 20 to discuss ways to improve nuclear security and then on June 27-28 on other issues, including their bitter dispute over the divided Kashmir region.
Indian Foreign Minister Natwar Singh said earlier this week the new government in Delhi wanted to evolve a common nuclear doctrine with Pakistan and China, so the three nuclear powers “speak the same language” and avoid confrontation.
Pakistan’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Masood Khan said Islamabad was studying the proposal.