The army conducted a test fire of Hatf IX, a surface-to-surface plutonium warhead of a range of 60 km on Friday, while the Pakistan Navy conducted separate military exercises on Saturday, testing live-fire torpedoes and guided missiles in the open sea. The Hatf IX, uses state of the art multi tubes for simultaneous launches, and this upgrade in our arsenal, with its in-flight manoeuvrability capabilities is extremely useful, but also has larger connotations for deterrence in the region. The naval operations mark the beginning of a joint military exercise with China, and comes just twenty days after the militants’ failed attempt to hijack PNS Zulfikar, a navy ship, in the Karachi port. With the Army engaged in North Waziristan this is probably a reminder to militants that the armed forces are completely in control of their assets.

The armed forces testing smaller nuclear warheads, and the exercises with China are likely to raise a few eyebrows in the region. With Afghanistan on one side and India on the other, with the latter already irked by the border issues with China, this joint exercise is more consistent with our age-old stance of sticking with China whenever the two countries are having problems. As far as Afghanistan goes, the recent change in government might signal a new day for Af-Pak relations. Ashraf Ghani’s first statement regarding Pakistan has been very positive, compared to Hamid Karzai’s stance during his time as President.

In the past, defence exercises have been carried out whenever Pakistan and India are at loggerheads with one another, and with the increase in LoC violations, this show of strength could be considered as a response to India. India’s own investment into its defence operations would have also been on the minds of the top brass, which undoubtedly hastened efforts to test the Hatf IX. But how much of a say did the civilian government have in organising these exercises at this time? None it seems. This is a clear signal by the army that it is on top of everything.