Pakistan is capable of producing nuclear weapons within days, the architect of its nuclear program said Sunday, following two days of test blasts that raised fears of another war between India and Pakistan.
As the two countries touted their respective nuclear programs and belittled that of their rival, Pakistan's foreign minister accused India on Sunday of preparing a new site for further nuclear tests in early July.There was no immediate response from India on Sunday, but officials have said previously they have no plans for further nuclear blasts.
Pakistan has said only that its current round of testing - which it claimed included the detonation of five devices Thursday and one on Saturday - is now complete.
Pakistan's tests came in response to India's detonation of five nuclear devices more than two weeks ago.
With both nations having declared themselves nuclear states in recent weeks, attention has turned to the question of how easily each could produce nuclear weapons, and what types of weapons.
Abdul Qadeer Khan, who has achieved hero status in Pakistan as the father of the country's budding nuclear program, boasted Sunday that Pakistan's nuclear and missile technology had surpassed that of its hostile neighbor.
"It won't need months or weeks, we can deploy nuclear weapons in a matter of days," Khan said in an interview with the Associated Press.
"I will say our devices are more consistent, more compact, more advanced and more reliable than what the Indians have," he added. "In efficiency, in reliability . . . and the very fact that we have used a very high technologically enriched uranium."
India disputed the claim, saying that, in fact, the opposite is true.
According to U.S. intelligence, Pakistan is ahead of India in its ability to place weapons atop missiles.
Pakistan could mount nuclear devices atop the Ghouri missile, which has a range of about 900 miles and could reach New Delhi, or the Chinese-designed M-11 missile, which has a range of about 250 miles, according to U.S. intelligence.
U.S. officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, have said that if India wanted to fire nuclear weapons in the near future, it would have to use aircraft as a delivery system.
Before its first set of tests, Pakistan had deployed its Ghauri missile around the testing site in the Chagai hills of southwestern Baluchistan province, fearing that India would attack its nuclear in-stallations.
But Khan, the nuclear program chief, said that when Saturday's test was over, the missiles were returned to storage.
He said Pakistan is currently producing additional Ghauri missiles and that one of the reasons for last week's tests was to determine the compatibility of the nuclear devices with the missile.
The tests, he said, showed that the devices are small enough to be deployed on the missile.
A spokesman for Jane's Information Group, publishers of Jane's Defense Weekly and other military publications, said Pakistan and India are each believed to have between 12 and 18 nuclear devices.
Also Sunday, Indian Defense Minister George Fernandes was quoted by the Hindustan Times as saying that Pakistan had conducted only one test Thursday, not five.