Pakistan Launches Nuclear-Capable, Medium Range Missile in Military Exercise

Pakistan on Wednesday successfully test-fired a new version of its nuclear-capable missile, military and defense officials said.

The medium range ballistic missile Hatf IV (Shaheen-I) has a range of 700 kilometers (435 miles), a Pakistan military statement said.

The statement did not say where the test was conducted, but a defense official said the missile — which had the ability to carry nuclear warheads — hit its target.

It said the test was "part of the ongoing exercises of Pakistan Army's Strategic Force Command," and that it "marked the culmination phase of the training exercise and validated the operational readiness of the Strategic Missile Group ... equipped with Shaheen-I Missiles."

Pakistan and its rival neighbor India often conduct such tests as a show of power. Pakistan's latest came just two days after India carried out its first successful ballistic missile interception test, using a missile to shoot down a second, incoming one.

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Analysts say if India's Prithvi II interceptor missile can be transformed into a viable defense system, it would push India into an elite club of nations with working missile shields.

However, Pakistani officials have said the Prithvi II would burden India's treasury because the two countries share a vast border area, meaning India would have to deploy a large number of such missiles.

On Wednesday, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee Gen. Ehsan Ul Haq witnessed the test and congratulated soldiers, engineers and scientists, saying the Shaheen-1 accurately hit its target.

"Pakistan can be justifiably proud of its defense capability and the reliability of its nuclear deterrence," he said.

The general "appreciated the efforts of all personnel, civilian and military, whose dedication and professionalism had made it possible for Pakistan to fully consolidate and operationalize its nuclear capability in the last seven years," the statement said.

He said the capability forms the bedrock of Pakistan's security policy, and would be fully supported by the government.

Pakistan and India have fought three wars since gaining independence from Britain in 1947.

In 2004, they began peace talks aimed at resolving their disputes, including their competing claims to the divided Himalayan region of Kashmir.

The dialogue has helped ease tensions between the two nations, which nearly fought a fourth war in 2002.

Pakistan became a declared nuclear power in 1998, when it conducted underground nuclear tests in response to those carried out by New Delhi. Pakistan also tested its first missile the same year.

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