Mediaeval message behind modern missile tests Back   Home  
Surface-to-surface missiles recently test-fired in Pakistan come with interesting names which reveal much about what these moves are intended to convey to India.

Officials say the successful test-firing of three missiles during the last few days has confirmed the country’s capability to strike deep inside enemy territory in the event of a war.

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, and Abdali — these are the three ballistic missiles Pakistan test-fired during 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.

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

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 hand out a convincing defeat to the Indian king.

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.

The two other missiles Pakistan tested during the week are also named after 11th and 18th-century Afghan conquerors, Mahmood 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 something like a continuation of the battles of the past between people described in Pakistani history books as just invaders and several of India’s as cruel emperors.
Published in Qatar daily The Peninsula