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Wednesday, 29 May, 2002, 13:43 GMT 14:43 UK
Pakistan's missile symbolism
Ghauri missile launch sequence photograph
The Ghauri missile can hit targets 900 miles away

Pakistani officials say the successful test-firing of three of its surface-to-surface missiles in the last few days has confirmed the country's capability to strike deep inside enemy territory in the event of a war.

The Abdali short range ballistic missile
The Abdali is named after a ferocious Afghan king

Interestingly, these tests have not only demonstrated the effectiveness of Pakistan's missile technology; the names given to these missiles are full of symbolism.

They suggest that Pakistan relates the present conflict in South Asia to the conflicts of the mediaeval period when Muslim warriors from Afghanistan frequently invaded India.

Ghauri, Ghaznavi, Abdali - these are the three ballistic missiles Pakistan test-fired in the last week.

But these are also names of three prominent Muslim warlords, or conquerors, who invaded India from Afghanistan between the 11th and 18th centuries in an attempt to expand their empires.

Historical histrionics

The medium-range Ghauri missile is Pakistan's answer to India's Prithvi missile, and here the symbolism is perhaps most interesting.

Ghaznavi short range ballistic missile
The Ghaznavi can only be used close to the border

Muhammad Ghauri was a powerful Afghan warlord who in the 12th century had two fierce battles with the Hindu ruler of northern India, Prithviraj Chouhan.

Ghauri was defeated in the first battle and later on, he returned with a bigger army to achieve a convincing victory.

Although India insists that the name Prithvi given to its missile means "earth" and has nothing to do with any Hindu ruler of the past, Pakistan wants the world to believe otherwise.

Battle fetish

The other two missiles Pakistan tested during the week are also named after 11th and 18th-century Afghan conquerors, Mehmood Ghaznavi and Ahmed Shah Abdali.

Ghaznavi is described in history books as a temple-destroyer who attacked India 17 times.

Pakistan has never given any specific reason for naming these missiles after such historical figures.

But the symbolism is a clear reflection of the official mindset in the country.

It shows that for Islamabad, the present conflict with India is a continuation of the battles of the past between people described in Pakistani history books as just Muslim invaders and several of India's cruel Hindu emperors.

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See also:

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