Business TimesOct 10, 2018 06:50 PM
Pakistan, the only Arab Muslim country armed with nuclear weapons and indigenous ballistic missiles, sent a message of displeasure to India by intentionally testing one of its nuclear-capable ballistic missiles to coincide with India’s acquisition of an advanced surface-to-air missile (SAM) defense system from Russia.
Pakistan on Oct. 8 announced another successful launch of a road-mobile Ghauri-I (Hatf-5) medium-range ballistic missile (MRBM). This weapon can deliver either a 700 kg high-explosive or a nuclear warhead (12 kT to 35 kT yield) with acceptable accuracy to a target as far away as 1,500 kilometers.
Pakistan’s Inter-Services Public Relations revealed the launch was conducted by the Army Strategic Forces Command (ASFC), and was aimed at testing the operational and technical readiness of the command and its arsenal of missiles.
Commander, Army Strategic Forces Command Lt Gen Mian Muhammad Hilal Hussain praised the test as a successful demonstration of the Pakistan Armed Forces’ (PAF) operational and technical readiness. A major command of the Pakistan Army, ASFC administers the armed forces’ land-based nuclear weapons.
An official statement from the PAF said the launch consolidates Pakistan’s nuclear capability, which is aimed at peace and stability through a credible deterrence regime. Pakistani President Dr. Arif Alvi and Prime Minister Imran Khan also announced their appreciation for the successful test of the missile system.
Behind the congratulatory messages, however, is a deeper strategic intent for the unannounced “testing” of an expensive Ghauri-I. The missile launch on Oct. 8 came only two days after arch-rival India signed a $5.43 billion deal with Russia to acquire five batteries of the latter’s S-400 Triumf SAM system.
The deal was signed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Russian president Vladimir Putin who traveled to Delhi for the signing. It reaffirmed Moscow’s role as India’s most important defense partner. A joint statement said India and Russia welcomed the conclusion of the contract for the supply of the S-400 Long Range Surface to Air Missile System to India.
Deliveries of the S-400 will begin two years from now. All five SAM systems will have been delivered by 2020. Both countries also set a target of $30 billion in bilateral trade by 2025.
Political pundits in India also said the Ghauri-I launch was also meant to emphasize Pakistan’s continuing anger at India’s sudden decision to cancel peace talks with Islamabad that were to have taken place during the U.N. General Assembly meeting in New York last month.
Less than 24 hours after India agreed to talks with Pakistan, however, India reneged on its promise. Flabbergasted, Islamabad called India’s decision “ill-considered” that wasted a “serious opportunity”.
India said its sudden move responded to the latest brutal killings of our security personnel by Pakistan-based entities. India also said the decision to junk the talks was also due to the recent release of a series of 20 postage stamps by Pakistan glorifying a terrorist and terrorism.
Pakistan said it was “deeply disappointed” by India’s decision to cancel the talks. It said the reasons cited by India were “entirely unconvincing.”