Pakistan has successfully tested its first ground-fired cruise missile, capable of carrying nuclear and conventional weapons.
Pakistani military officials say the cruise missile was fired early Thursday, but they did not disclose the launch site. The rocket, called Babur, is said to be capable of carrying both nuclear and conventional weapons.
Speaking to reporters after the launch, President General Pervez Musharraf said the cruise missile test would further strengthen Pakistan's defense capabilities.
"The biggest value of this system is that it is not detectable, it cannot be intercepted. We are proud of this missile. And this is the greatest gift to the Pakistani nation by the scientists of Pakistan," he said.
President Musharraf says the Babur missile, with its 500-kilometer range, is superior to neighboring India's Bramos cruise missile, which has a rang of 290 kilometers. He vowed to maintain a military balance with rival India in both conventional and unconventional fields, even if India acquired high-technology U.S. weapons, such as the Patriot missile system.
"There was talk of India getting Patriot missiles, and there was a feeling that there was an imbalance, which is being created because of the purchase of very advanced technology weapons. Let me say, this improves the balance. So, that is the significance of the Babur missile that we have fired," he said.
Pakistani officials say the cruise missile is not covered by a new agreement with India to provide advance notice of ballistic missile tests.
The agreement was finalized in New Delhi last week, but has yet to be signed. It is part of efforts aimed at reducing border tensions and the risk of an accidental conflict.
India and Pakistan have fought three wars since gaining independence from Britain in 1947. Both the rival nations tested nuclear weapons in 1998, raising fears another war could lead to a nuclear exchange.
Under pressure from the international community, India and Pakistan are engaged in a comprehensive peace dialogue, aimed at normalizing bilateral relations and settling all outstanding issues, including the conflict over the disputed border region of Kashmir.