After an Indian missile was accidentally fired at Pakistan, Islamabad contemplated retaliating, despite the Indian expression of regret. The missile that landed in the Punjab province of Pakistan, resulted in no casualties and only caused some property damage. Meanwhile, the union government here took a “serious view” of the lapse that led to the firing and ordered a high-level inquiry and a review of the standard operating procedure for “operations, maintenance, and inspection” of systems, defence minister Rajnath Singh told parliament this week. “… if any lapses are found, action will be taken accordingly,” Rajnath Singh said.
The Indian Air Force fired the BrahMos medium-range cruise missile from Haryana’s Ambala, about 200 km from Delhi, the Bloomberg report said. The missile damaged some residential property but caused no casualties.
India did not use the direct hotline between the top army commanders on both sides to inform Pakistan, the Bloomberg report said. Instead, Air Force officials moved to shut down the missile systems to avoid any further launches, reported Bloomberg.
The Pakistan Air Force said it tracked the flight path of the missile from Sirsa in Haryana to its landing spot in Mian Channu city in Pakistan’s Punjab province, military spokesman Major General Babar Iftikhar told reporters last weekend.
The Narendra Modi government has stressed that the incident is “deeply regrettable” and was caused by “a technical malfunction”. “… it is also a matter of relief that there has been no loss of life due to the accident,” the Indian government said in its statement.
Last Friday, the Pakistan government had called India’s charge d’affaires in Islamabad to lodge a formal protest. Pak pointed out the “imprudent launch” not only caused damage to civilian property but also put at risk human lives on ground, as well as endangering passenger flights.
Pakistan has called for a “thorough and transparent investigation”, including emphasising the need for enhanced safeguards against accidental launches in a nuclearised environment. Then, Pakistan foreign minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi this week said Rajnath Singh’s statement in parliament was “incomplete and insufficient”, and called for a joint probe.
Shah told reporters in Islamabad that “the impact of this incident could be far beyond as the weapon was capable of carrying a warhead. To say it was just an accident will not be enough”.
Amid the fallout, both sides have avoided a hostile tone to avoid escalating tension, although Bloomberg has cited unnamed sources as saying that Pakistan had been prepping for a launch of its own after the Indian missile struck. Bloomberg said Pakistan had halted firing “because an initial assessment indicated something was amiss”.
This week, the US said there was no indication the firing was anything other than accidental. “We have no indication, as you also heard from our Indian partners, that this incident was anything other than an accident,” a state department spokesperson said.
Ties between India and Pakistan are at a historic low since 2019, when soldiers were killed in a suicide attack in Jammu and Kashmir’s Pulwama. India responded by launching air strikes in Pakistan’s Balakot, which was followed by an aerial dogfight between the neighbours. India faces a looming Chinese threat as well, with the all-weather ally of Pakistan not giving up its claims on Indian territories along the northern border and Line of Actual Control despite losing more than 40 soldiers in the Galwan Valley clash in a mountain skirmish where 20 Indian soldiers also were killed.