Pakistan reportedly has begun full-scale production of the Shaheen I, a 600 km-range, nuclear-capable ballistic missile, successfully tested in April 1999. On September 21, the Pakistani daily The News quoted an unnamed government official saying, "mass production of Shaheen, which can hit Indian strategic points like Mumbai [formerly known as Bombay] and others with 100% accuracy, has started."
This follows earlier reports in Defense News, quoting Indian defense officials, that New Delhi had authorized serial production of 300 Prithvi missiles, with a range of 150-250 km. The Indian defense ministry dismissed this report as " incorrect and baseless" prior to the Indian Prime Minister's U.S. visit.
These reports represent a month-long delivery of missile messages by "unnamed sources" and hawkish prominent nuclear scientists in South Asia. It follows a typical, and potentially explosive, tit-for-tat process.
The News had also quoted a prominent Pakistani scientist stating that the country was ready to test the Shaheen II, a nuclear-capable missile with a 2,500 km-range. Pakistani press reports also quoted Dr. Abdul Qadeer Khan, who was instrumental in Pakistan's nuclear tests, claiming Pakistan's nuclear capability was more advanced than India's and adding that all major Indian cities could be obliterated in five minutes.
In a September 4 report, Defense News quoted a senior Indian missile scientist stating that the "Agni missile is now ready for serial production." The Agni I ballistic missile has a range of 1,500 km, while Agni II has a 2,500-km range. Agni II was tested in April 1999. A senior official in India's defense ministry said that Agni had been cleared for production, adding that this decision was part of New Delhi's policy of "maintaining a minimum nuclear deterrence."
Meanwhile in India, press comments by influential nuclear scientists indicate an ongoing tussle between the imperatives of that community and New Delhi's desire not to jeopardize the maturing relationship with Washington. Dr. Abdul Kalam, prinicpal scientific advisor to the Prime Minister, asserted that India had "the capability to design and develop any type of missile, including the ICBM." In late August, the former chairman of the Indian Atomic Energy Commission, Dr. P.K. Iyengar, had argued that India has "no option but to continue testing" in order to weaponize and achieve minimum nuclear deterrence. He added, "It would be wrong for the government to pressure the scientists to put a premature end to nuclear tests, for political expediency."