Missile race gains pace with Pakistan’s launch

Missile race gains pace with Pakistan’s launch

Missile race gains pace with Pakistan’s launch

A new version of the Pakistani-made Ghauri missile is seen in this 2002 photo. Pakistan has successfully test-fired a nuclear-capable intermediate range ballistic missile. Hürriyet photo

Pakistan successfully test fired a nuclear-capable intermediate range ballistic missile yesterday, days after its neighbor and archenemy India conducted its own missile test.

The exact range of the missile was not revealed, but retired General Talat Masood, a defense analyst, told Agence France-Presse intermediate range ballistic missiles could reach targets up to 2,500 to 3,000 kilometers away, which would put almost all India within reach.

On April 19 India test fired its long range Agni V missile, which can deliver a one-ton nuclear warhead anywhere in China. “Pakistan today successfully conducted the launch of the intermediate range ballistic missile Hatf IV Shaheen-1A weapon system,” Pakistan’s military said in a statement. If the Shaheen-1A is indeed an intermediate-range missile, it would represent a quantum leap from the previous version.

Pakistan’s longest range missile before yesterday’s launch was believed to be the Shaheen II, with a range of 2,000 kilometers. That is far enough to hit targets anywhere in India. India and Pakistan, which have fought three wars since independence from Britain in 1947, have routinely carried out missile tests since both demonstrated nuclear weapons capability in 1998.

‘India-centric program’
Pakistan’s most recent missile test came last month with the launch of the short-range nuclear-capable Abdali, while in April 2008 it tested the Shaheen II, or Hatf VI, missile with a range of 2,000 kilometers. The missile can carry nuclear and conventional warheads, the military said. “This is part of Pakistan’s program to develop nuclear and missile deterrence. It has a series of missiles in its inventory. This is perhaps the longest range missile in its program,” Masood said. “The whole object is essentially India-centric while India’s own program is directed towards China. Pakistan is engaged in improving its missile system as India continues to increase its capability.”