Missiles have replaced pigeons in the world of modern warfare and the two nuclear neighbors of South Asia are becoming quite adept in adopting the new technology.
Pakistan has become quite adept at sending out diplomatic messages through its military advancement.
Pakistan sent a message of deterrence across the region, as it test-fired short-range nuclear warhead capable ballistic missiles Hatf-VII or Babur on February 10, in line with the traditional warriors’ practice of yore, who used to post messages by shooting an arrow into the enemy camps.
There could be various reasons for getting into the race to acquire an edge over the regional forces. The following top the essentiality list: First, a message of deterrence to rival players in the region, specifically India. Second is to check and improve the accuracy and consistency of the weapons. Third, address the domestic audience by serving as a morale booster and as a regular part of the exercise. And, to tell the world particularly the United States, that despite being the top nonNATO ally in its war on terror and deep involvement in the entire mess, Pakistan would never compromise its principled stand on Kashmir and would fight back if the need arises.
Pakistan was dragged into missile buildup in the 80s mainly due to prolonged delay in delivery of the F-16s by the U.S., accessibility of Chinese missile technology and India’s ambitious missile program.
The Pakistani missile program was not just an attempt to be at par with India but was deep rooted in the country’s inherited geographical strategic depth. The country has tried to further leverage its conventional war capability through its missiles program, and also have the ability to deliver its nuclear warheads accurately at long-distance targets, deep into enemy territory.
India’s comprehensive, Integrated Guided Missile Development Program (IGMDP) was started in 1983, envisaging a simultaneous five-missile program to shield the ‘Mahabharata’ with an all-embracing shield. It includes Trishul, Akaash, Nag,
Prithvi and Agni.
Pakistan’s Hatf missiles comprise a variety ranging from Hatf-I to VII, both liquid and user-friendly solid fuel operated with a wide range of payoff load and ranges. These weapons were named after various Muslim conquerors who ruled the Indian subcontinent over the past millennium. So far Ghauri, Shaheen and Tarmuk have been tested and other versions, including Tipu and Haider, are also reported to be in the works.
Hatf-VII supplements the heavy arsenal of the Pakistani military with a range of 600 kilometers.
The low flying Hatf-VII also possesses stealth capabilities and is named after the 16th century founder of the Mughal dynasty, Emperor Zaheeruddin Babur. It can also be fired from naval frigates.
Hatf-VII’s terrain-hugging, high maneuverability, pin-point accuracy and radar avoidance features make it special. Hatf-VII also incorporates modern cruise missile technology such as Terrain Contour Matching (TERCOM) and Digital Scene Matching and Area Co-relation (DSMAC), according to Pakistan military spokesman Major General Athar Abbas.
Pakistan tested a medium range nuclear warhead with a 1,300 km range ballistic missile Hatf-V in December 2010. In July, Shaheen-I with a range of 650 km and Ghaznavi having a range of 290 km were also tested. This was part of the ‘Azm-eNau-III’ military exercises that commenced in April 2010 along Pakistan’s eastern border with India. The exercise was the largest ever war games Pakistan has conducted since ‘Zarb-e-Momin’ in 1989.
The Ghaznavi missile is named after the 11th century Turk Muslim conqueror Mahmoud of Ghazna (Central Asia), who was known as an idol destroyer, as he razed most of the prominent Hindu idols in the sub-continent during his 17 attacks on India.
Pakistan caught the international community’s attention for the technically advanced nature of the missile it test-fired on August 2005. It tested an upgraded version of Babur cruise missile on March 22, 2007 and, a few months later, on July 26, it carried out two more tests to show that Babur could also be fired from the air. The Pakistan Air Force already had an air-launched cruise missile Ra’ad in its arsenal.
The serial production of Babur started in 2005. It is reportedly said to be based on the BGM-109 Tomahawk cruise missile. Six of the Tomahawk cruise missiles landed in Pakistani territory during a U.S.-launched air strike in 1998 on alleged Al-Qaeda camps in Afghanistan near the Pakistani border,
It is also said that the Pakistan Air Force is flexing its muscles to test airto-surface missiles.
According to a BBC report, in March 2010, the Pakistan Navy successfully tested a series of missiles and torpedoes in what it is called, “a message of deterrence to anyone harboring nefarious designs” against the country. The Pakistani nation was enthralled when it successfully test-fired ‘Ghauri’ on April 6, 1998 with a range of 1,500 km and a payload of 700 kg. A model of the indigenously built missile was placed in the center of almost every big city in the country.
This missile was named after the 12th century Afghan King Shahabuddin Ghauri who conquered the western and northern parts of India, defeating Prithvi Raj Chauhan in 1192. The name ‘Prithvi’ of the Indian short-range ballistic missiles was as symbolic as Ghauri but the latter has a longer range.
India tested Agni-II on April 11, 1999 to incite Pakistani response of Ghauri-II just three days later on April 14, 2010. The Ghauri range of missiles is believed to be a derivative of the North Korean Nodong missile.
All this triggered a new missile race between the rival nuclear neighbors that share a long 1,280 kilometer border and have fought three full scale wars (1947-48, 1965 and 1971), a limited war in 1999 and numerous incidents of eye-ball-to-eye-ball confrontation.
Both have also had several skirmishes over the Siachen glacier, the highest war zone in the world. Both possess hardware and technological disadvantages that they are diligently trying to catch up with. However, in the presence of India’s “no-firstuse” and Pakistan’s “to go first” policy (in case of, India’s conventional attack), the key factor is who draws first blood.
Despite denials from Pakistani top brass about the real objectives of massive military exercises and top grade military weapons testing, analysts believe that the real objective is to keep at par with military developments in India in an effective manner.
“Pakistan’s resolve and commitment to continue its strategic program will remain paramount,” said Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee, General Khalid Shamim Wyne on the occasion of Hatf-VII’s testing.
Pakistan, the frontline U.S. ally in the war against terror is fighting an insurgency in its tribal areas bordering Afghanistan on its northwest, but is keeping a vigil over India to prevent it from taking advantage of its vulnerable situation. The country’s over half a million military strength is terribly stretched between its eastern and northwestern borders and rising terrorism at home. It certainly needs to send a message across its eastern border that while it is a peaceful nation, it is fully prepared to take on the enemy. The writer is a political and security analyst, senior journalist and former Political Affairs Advisor to the U.S. Consulate General in Karachi.