Pakistan decided to use the moment of the world's largest democratic election happening just across its border to test fire a large ballistic missile.
Though Pakistan's military didn't explicitly mention India in a press release and video of the launch, the symbolism and message was clear, given it came the very day India is in the final stage of counting election votes, with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi securing a landslide general election victory as of Thursday night local time.
More that 600 million people voted in what's been described as a marathon six-week process, and crucially considered a referendum on the prime minister's Hindu nationalist politics, which critics - especially among India's over 200 million strong Muslim community - have accused of threatening the fabric of the country's secular politics and public life.
Early Thursday Modi claimed victory as final votes are still being tallied, thanking Indians for "the faith placed" in his ruling Bharatiya Janata Party-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA). He tweeted that the reelection, which has reportedly surprised members of his own party, "gives us strength to work even harder to fulfill people's aspirations."
Thank you India! The faith placed in our alliance is humbling and gives us strength to work even harder to fulfil people's aspirations.
I salute every BJP Karyakarta for their determination, perseverance & hardwork. They went home to home, elaborating on our development agenda.
— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) May 23, 2019
Based on the early numbers it appears Modi smashed even the most optimistic of expectations as he's won a larger share of the vote than the 2014 elections, something way above what exit polls had indicated. Rival for the general election for prime minister, Congress president Rahul Gandhi conceded defeat to Modi in a speech hours ago, congratulating the prime minister on his win.
Per CNN live updates, Modi has won the crucial Varanasi district:
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has comfortably won in his constituency of Varanasi, in Uttar Pradesh state, with 63.62% of the vote.
Modi won 674,664 votes compared to his next opponent, Shalini Yadav of the Samajwadi Party. Congress Party candidate Ajay Rai won 152,548 votes.
Modi smashed his 2014 showing in Varansi, when he won 371,000 votes.
Modi had initially been unexpectedly swept into the prime minister's seat in 2014 on a populist platform that's been compared to the rise of Trump in the US. Among Modi's economic promises which have been focused on "more jobs" he also promised to "stand up to Pakistan" concerning the historic tension-filled central question facing Indian foreign policy.
But on Thursday it appeared Pakistan wished to send its rival and neighbor a message concerning Modi's next five year term in office.
“Shaheen-II is a highly capable missile which fully meets Pakistan’s strategic needs towards maintenance of deterrence stability in the region,” Pakistan’s military said in a statement.
Successful training launch of surface to surface ballistic missile Shaheen-II conducted. Capable of carrying both conventional & nuclear warheads upto a range of 1500 KMs. Shaheen-II fully meets Pak’s strat needs towards maintenance of desired deterrence stability in the region. pic.twitter.com/I9t468wxnq
— Maj Gen Asif Ghafoor (@OfficialDGISPR) May 23, 2019
The missile is nuclear capable and has a range of up to 1,500 miles - and will further likely renew tensions following the major escalation in late February along the disputed Kashmir border which resulted in Pakistan shooting down two Indian jets and capturing a downed pilot, who was later returned to India.
However, Pakistan's leaders have lately claimed they desire peace. Previously on Wednesday Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi reportedly spoke with his Indian counterpart Sushma Swaraj on the sidelines of a central Asia economic forum. Qureshi said of the unofficial meeting, “We never speak bitterly, we want to live like good neighbors and settle our outstanding issues through talks.”
Pakistan's foreign ministry said further on Thursday of the ongoing Kashmir crisis: “Dialogue is hence essential. We remain committed to the same, irrespective of whoever forms the new government in India,” according to Reuters.