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Pakistan test-fires nuclear-capable missile that could hit deep within India

Pakistan said Wednesday that it had successfully fired a nuclear-capable intermediate-range ballistic missile. NBCNews.com's Dara Brown reports.

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan – Pakistan raised its nuclear ante Wednesday by saying it had conducted a successful test of an intermediate-range ballistic missile capable of carrying a nuclear warhead almost 600 miles, far enough to strike deep within India, its nuclear-armed neighbor.

The Shaheen-1 missile struck its intended target at sea, according to a statement from the Pakistani military.

The missile incorporates a series of technical improvements and has a longer range than its predecessors, the statement said.

Pakistan has an arsenal of at least 90 nuclear warheads and has been quickly increasing the range of its missiles, according to a report from the Congressional Research Service. 

The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists says Pakistan has the world's fastest-growing nuclear stockpile.

Meanwhile, India has an estimated 100 nuclear weapons, according to the Arms Control Association, and tensions between the next-door neighbors, which have historically been high, have risen lately with a conflict over the disputed Kashmir territory.

In August 2012, Indian External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna hinted at Pakistan when he mentioned “rampant proliferation in our extended neighborhood” during a speech in New Delhi.

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“Nuclear weapons today are an integral part of our national security and will remain so,” Krishna said.

Pakistan, whose foreign ministry has said the country "is mindful of the need to avoid an arms race with India,” said Wednesday that the Shaheen-1 can accurately hit a target up to 560 miles away, compared with 430 miles for the previous version.

Senior military officers, along with scientists and engineers from the National Engineering and Scientific Commission, watched the launch, the government said.

Among those on hand was retired Lt. Gen. Khalid Ahmed Kidwai, director general of the country’s Strategic Plans Division, who was quoted by the government as saying the new version of the missile had “consolidated and strengthened Pakistan’s deterrence abilities manifold.”

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