Amid mounting tension over India’s annexation of Kashmir, Pakistan has successfully carried out the night training launch of a surface to surface ballistic missile.
The missile “is capable of delivering multiple types of warheads up to 290 kilometres”, said military media spokesperson Major General Asif Ghafoor via a tweet, which also included a video of the launch.
The missile is capable of defeating — by assured penetration — “any currently available BMD [Ballistic Missile Defense] system in our neighborhood or any other system under procurement [or] development”, the military’s media wing said.
Press Trust of India (PTI) said the Ghaznavi missile is capable of delivering multiple types of warheads up to 290 kms, that could cover parts of India.
The PTI pointed out that the nuclear-capable missile was launched amid Pakistan’s efforts to internationalize the Kashmir issue after India abrogated provisions of Article 370 of the Constitution to revoke Jammu and Kashmir’s special status and bifurcated it into two Union Territories.
This was the third missile test by Pakistan this year.
In May, Pakistan conducted a successful training launch of Shaheen-II, a surface-to-surface ballistic missile.
“The training launch was aimed at ensuring [the] operational readiness of [the] Army Strategic Forces Command. [The] Shaheen-II missile is capable of carrying both conventional and nuclear warheads up to a range of 1,500 kilometres,” the army media wing said. The launch had its impact point in the Arabian Sea.
The army’s media wing described Shaheen-II as a “highly capable missile which fully meets Pakistan’s strategic needs towards maintenance of desired deterrence stability in the region.”
In January, Pakistan witnessed another successful launch of the tactical ballistic missile Nasr as part of the Army Strategic Forces Command training exercise.
A press release from the army media explained how the Nasr test is meant to prove its usefulness as a “high precision shoot-and-scoot weapon system with the ability of in-flight maneuverability.” Its role with the Army Strategic Forces Command is confusing, however, being described as adding to “full spectrum deterrence…within the precincts of policy of credible minimum deterrence.”
According to Military Today, the Nasr tactical ballistic missile is intended to target enemy offensive forces. The missile has a range of 60 km. It carries a 0.5-5 kT nuclear warhead. Nuclear warheads are small enough to fit inside a thin missile, that is about 300 mm in diameter. It is likely that other highly destructive warheads are also available. The Nasr has in-flight maneuver capability. Also it is claimed that it was designed to overcome missile defense systems. It is claimed that this missile is accurate.
In March 2016, Pakistan displayed Shaheen-III missile capable of carrying both nuclear and conventional payloads to a range of 2,750 km, which would make it the longest range missile in Pakistan’s strategic arsenal.
According to Missile Threat of the Center for Strategic and International Studies, the publicized 2,750 km range of the Shaheen-III suggests modest improvement over the Shaheen-II, which is reported to have a range between 2,000 and 2,500 km. The additional range allows the missile to target Andaman and Nicobar Islands in the Bay of Bengal, which is the sole reason for its development according to General Khalid Kidwai, the former head of the Strategic Plans Division.
Some speculation suggests that Pakistan is also working to equip the Shaheen-III with multiple independent reentry vehicles (MIRV) as a response to Indian attempts to develop a missile defense capability, the Missile Threat said.
The missile underwent at least two successful tests in 2015 in March and December.
Pakistan’s latest missile test came amid warning from Strafor (Strategic Forecasting) that the specter of nuclear war haunts tensions between India and Pakistan, and the disputed territory of Kashmir could provide the spark that lights South Asia’s nuclear fuse.
The Indian and Pakistani armed forces possess both strategic and tactical nuclear weapons, which local commanders could use on the battlefield in populated areas. This would be the first use in war of atomic weapons since the U.S. destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945, according to Strafor which is sometimes referred to as ‘The Shadow CIA.’
The possibility of the conflict going nuclear may have increased on Aug. 16 when Indian Defense Minister Rajnath Singh seemed to abandon India’s “no first use” doctrine when he tweeted that “India has strictly adhered to this doctrine. What happens in the future depends on the circumstances,” the Strafor report pointed out.
If the decades long armed rebellion in Kashmir grows more intense in response to India’s revocation of the region’s autonomy and its imposition of a total security lockdown, India will blame Pakistan, which in years past supported Kashmiri insurgents, said Strafor adding:
“India and Pakistan came to blows last February, following an insurgent attack on Indian troops in Kashmir. The Pakistanis downed an Indian fighter jet and captured its pilot, Abhinandan Varthaman. When (Prime Minister Imran) Khan returned the Indian pilot on March 1, Modi did not acknowledge his conciliatory gesture. Nor has his government been willing to discuss Kashmir, whose people were promised a plebiscite on their future by India’s first prime minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, in 1947. The vote never took place, but several wars have.”