ISLAMABAD, Pakistan - Pakistan’s military said it successfully test-fired a nuclear-capable cruise missile Tuesday, continuing a pattern of what analysts say is a regional arms buildup with a focus on India.
The Hatf-VII cruise missile is also known as Babur, named after Zahiruddin Muhammad Babur, founder of the Mughal empire on the Indian subcontinent in the early 16th century. Successful tests on the missile system, which has a range of about 435 miles and technically gives Pakistan a seaborne nuclear strike capability, began in 2005.
The missile test comes just days after the government presented its annual budget for the next fiscal year, which included a 10.2 percent increase in military spending despite a period of relative détente with India.
On Sunday, Imran Khan, a leading opposition politician, urged an audit of the defense budget, demanding greater transparency and scrutiny. And other domestic critics point out that Pakistan’s failing utility infrastructure has gone wanting as the military has kept most of the budget, even while it receives billions of dollars in military-focused aid from the United States, among others.
Continuing to develop a sophisticated cruise missile capability is seen as a deterrent to India, making Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal more flexible - and better able to survive a potential first strike by India - even as it gives the military more options in a conventional war.
“This is signaling to India that if you are modernizing your weaponry, then we are also not lagging behind. Pakistan is sensitive and responsive to evolving threats,’’ said Mansoor Ahmed, a defense analyst based in Islamabad.