- India carried out a test flight of a long-range nuclear-capable missile last week
- Pakistan says it has launched a new version of a medium-range missile into the sea
- The test will strengthen the country's "deterrence abilities," the Pakistani military says
- There have been positive signs in relations between Islamabad and New Delhi recently
Pakistan said Wednesday that it had conducted a test launch of a medium-range ballistic missile capable of carrying a nuclear warhead, just days after its arch-rival India tested a longer-range missile.
The Pakistani military said in a statement that the launch of the improved version of the Shaheen-1 missile was successful and that its impact point was at sea.
The new version of the missile "will further consolidate and strengthen Pakistan's deterrence abilities," the statement said, citing Lt. Gen. Khalid Ahmed Kidwai, head of the military's Strategic Plans Division.
India said last week that it had successfully carried out the maiden test flight of its longest-range nuclear-capable missile, which can apparently travel more than 5,000 kilometers (3,100 miles).
The Pakistani military's statement did not give details on the range of the missile that it fired Wednesday. The Shaheen-1 missile that it tested in 2010 was able to hit a target about 650 kilometers (403 miles) away.
There have been positive signs in the relationship between Islamabad and New Delhi recently. President Asif Ali Zardari of Pakistan met with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh of India during a private trip to India earlier this month.
It was the first visit to India by a Pakistani head of state in seven years, and Singh said at the time that he would be willing to make a reciprocal trip to Pakistan in the future.
But distrust remains deep between the two nations. The South Asian neighbors have fought three wars, two of them over the Himalayan territory of Kashmir, since the 1947 partition of the subcontinent into Islamic Pakistan and Hindu-majority, secular India after independence from Britain.
Last year, both countries pledged not to let their fragile peace process unravel again over the range of thorny issues that put them at odds.
In 2004, they agreed to negotiations that cover eight issues, including Kashmir, terrorism and Pakistan's concerns over river dams on the Indian side of the border, which it sees as a threat to its water supplies.
After that, successive governments held talks in an effort to end the historical acrimony.
But engagements were suspended in November 2008 after the terrorist assault on Mumbai, which left more than 160 people dead. India said Pakistani-based groups were behind that attack.
Over the past two years, India and Pakistan have held a series of high-level meetings in their bid to put their peace dialogue back on track, a process considered crucial to regional stability ahead of the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan.
In 2011, New Delhi and Islamabad agreed to resume talks.
The two nations' possession of nuclear weapons adds a worrying dimension to the tensions between them.
The International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War on Wednesday laid out a hypothetical scenario of what a nuclear conflict between two countries like India and Pakistan would mean for the world.
"A limited regional nuclear weapons exchange" between two such countries "would cause major worldwide climate disruption, driving down food production in China, the U.S. and other nations," the physicians group said in a statement previewing a new report on the subject.
That scenario would leave more than one billion people around the world facing starvation, according to the group, which was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1985