Pakistan Announces Successful Test of Nuclear-Capable Ballistic Missile

Pakistan said Wednesday that it had successfully test-fired a medium-range ballistic missile into the Arabian Sea, aimed at “revalidating” the weapon’s operational and technical parameters.

The Shaheen III surface-to-surface missile, which the country first fired in 2015, can carry nuclear and conventional warheads up to 2,750 kilometers.

The range, analysts said, enables the liquid-fueled, multistage rocket to reach targets anywhere in neighboring India, Pakistan’s archrival, and in parts of the Middle East.

The military said its top commanders, including the head of the Strategic Plans Division (SPD) that oversees Pakistan’s nuclear weapons program, witnessed Wednesday’s “successful flight test, with its impact point in the Arabian Sea.” It shared no further details.

Pakistani officials said the test was part of Islamabad’s resolve to maintain a “policy of credible minimum deterrence,” stressing the “posture is India-centric.”

Regional tensions

The two nuclear-armed South Asian nations have fought three wars and several limited conflicts since gaining independence from Britain in1947.

Bilateral tensions have deteriorated in recent years over disputed Kashmir, which both New Delhi and Islamabad claim in full and has sparked most of the wars.

Bid for attention?

Wednesday’s missile test by Pakistan came hours before President Joe Biden’s inauguration. The move, critics said, could be an attempt by Islamabad to draw the attention of the incoming U.S. administration to the heightened tensions in South Asia.

Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi said Tuesday that his government intended to convey to the Biden administration that Islamabad was seeking regional peace to promote economic prosperity.

“We wanted a good, healthy relationship with India. Unfortunately, the present [Indian] regime has by their actions vitiated the climate,” Qureshi told a virtual seminar organized to discuss Pakistan-U.S. ties.

“What we want to tell them [the U.S.] is that we are for peace. We never shy away from engagement, from dialogue, but the environment that is being created [by India] is not very healthy,” Qureshi said.

New Delhi alleges Islamabad is backing militant groups operating in the Indian-administered part of Kashmir and plotting terrorist attacks in India.

Pakistan rejects the charges as an attempt by India to divert international attention from “atrocities” security forces are allegedly inflicting on Kashmiris in the Indian-ruled part of the divided region.