By Ayaz Gul January 24, 2017
Pakistan says it has successfully tested a surface-to-surface ballistic missile that is capable of carrying multiple nuclear warheads and can hit targets with precision as far as 2,200 kilometers.
Tuesday's maiden flight test of the Ababeel missile was announced by military spokesman Major General Asif Ghafoor. He said it "has the capability to engage multiple targets with high precision, defeating the enemy's hostile radars."
Earlier this month, Pakistan successfully tested for the first time a submarine-launched, nuclear-capable cruise missile with a range of 450 kilometers.
Officials say the "Babur-3" missile provides Pakistan with a secure second strike capability.
Show of force
Tuesday's Ababeel launch is Pakistan's attempt to credibly demonstrate its technical ability to defeat "all ballistic missile defense systems" India is developing, says Syed Muhammed Ali, a senior research fellow at Islamabad's Center for International Strategic Studies.
"This also indicates Pakistan's scientific expertise to miniaturize its nuclear warheads," he observed.
Western critics insist Pakistan has the fastest growing nuclear arsenal in the world, assertions Islamabad dismisses as "misleading."
Pakistani officials cite close defense and nuclear cooperation between the United States and India for reinforcing its nuclear deterrence capabilities.
The Pakistani prime minister's foreign policy advisor, Sartaj Aziz, speaking last week to VOA, again underscored the importance of maintaining "strategic stability" in South Asia.
"We have been emphasizing to the U.S. that if you start your defense cooperation and arms agreement in such a way that disturbs our strategic stability, then we will have no option but to respond," said the de-facto Pakistani foreign minister.
The latest Pakistani missile tests come amid heightened tensions with neighboring India. Militaries of both countries until recent weeks had been engaged in deadly clashes across their disputed Kashmir border.