Reuters ISLAMABAD (Reuters) — Pakistan fired its first submarine-launched cruise missile on Monday, the military said, a show of force for a country that sees its missile development as a deterrent against arch-foe India.
The launch of the nuclear-capable Babur-3 missile, which has a range of 450 kilometers and was fired from an undisclosed location in the Indian Ocean, is likely to heighten long-running tension between India and Pakistan.
The nuclear-armed neighbors have fought three wars since independence from Britain in 1947. Both nations have been developing missiles of varying ranges since they conducted nuclear tests in May 1998.
“Pakistan eyes this hallmark development as a step towards reinforcing the policy of credible minimum deterrence,” the military’s media wing said in a statement.
A spokesman at the Indian defense ministry was not immediately available to comment on the Pakistani missile test.
India successfully test-fired a nuclear-capable, submarine-launched missile in 2008 and tested a submarine-launched cruise missile in 2013.
The Pakistani military said the Babur-3 missile was “capable of delivering various types of payloads and will provide Pakistan with a Credible Second Strike Capability, augmenting deterrence.”
An army spokesman later confirmed the language meant the missile was equipped to carry nuclear warheads.
The Babur-3 is a sea-based variant of the ground-launched Babur-2 missile, which was tested in December. The military said the missile had features such as “underwater controlled propulsion and advanced guidance and navigation.”
Last year, Pakistan said it was “seriously concerned” by India’s test of anti-ballistic missiles which media reports said could intercept incoming nuclear weapons.
According to media reports, on May 15 India tested a locally designed Anti-Ballistic Missile system which could in theory intercept a nuclear-carrying ballistic missile.
Top law amendment sought
Pakistan’s government said on Monday it was seeking to amend the constitution to keep special military courts for civilians charged with terrorism, days after the mandate expired for the secret courts that had been accused of fostering rights abuses.
It was unclear how long an extension the government was seeking for the military tribunals, which proponents said were necessary because of an inefficient civilian judiciary.
A statement from Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s office said the military courts “have played an extremely important role at a very crucial juncture.”
It said the government had begun talks aimed at amending the Constitution again to continue the military trials, which are held in secret, “for a period which is agreed by all political parties represented in the Parliament.”
The decision came after a high-level meeting on foreign police and security attended by Sharif, Interior Minister Nisar Ali Khan and new army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa, it said.
The main opposition parties had no immediate response on Monday. Their support would be needed to pass a second constitutional amendment
The military courts were set up by parliament in early 2015 in response to an attack by Pakistani Taliban fighters on a military-run school that killed 134 children.
Lawmakers at the time inserted an expiry clause, which ended the courts’ mandate on Saturday.
The amendment was criticized for handing significant judicial control to the powerful military, which has ruled the country of 190 million people for about half of its existence.
Lawmakers and the military argued that civilian courts were too slow for terrorism cases needed to be dealt with swiftly, since many judges, fearful of revenge, were reluctant to deliver verdicts.Speech