ISLAMABAD: The government on Friday called on the international community to ascertain the veracity of Indian claims of accidentally firing a missile into Pakistan, fearing there could be a sinister design behind the incident.

In a televised statement on behalf of the government on India’s explanation, National Security Adviser Dr Moeed Yusuf said it was for the world to see if New Delhi was telling the truth because its leadership could not be trusted.

A supersonic missile, believed to be a mid-range BrahMos, originated from India and struck a cold storage in Mian Channu on Wednesday evening. No loss of life was reported, though it could have prompted a catastrophic exchange between the two nuclear-armed neighbours.

Pakistan’s military had on Thursday night claimed its air defense system constantly tracked the missile that travelled 124 kilometres inside Pakistan for three minutes and 44 seconds, but was not shot down.

The military’s spokesman, Maj Gen Babar Iftikhar, had demanded an explanation from India about the incident. Later, the Foreign Office had around midnight summoned the Indian charge d’affaires and lodged a protest over “the unprovoked violation of Pakistan’s airspace”.

Moeed says ‘reckless’ India can’t even manage high-end technology; Delhi orders inquiry into ‘technical malfunction’

The Indian Defence Ministry, subsequently in a statement from New Delhi, claimed the missile was fired accidentally because of a technical malfunction during a routine maintenance drill. It said a “high-level Court of Enquiry” had been ordered into the incident.

The Indian ministry regretted the missile landed in Pakistan, but said it was relieved “there has been no loss of life due to the accident”.

Dr Yusuf cautioned against readily accepting the Indian account and reminded that India was a “reckless” and “rogue” actor that not only cared little about regional peace and stability, but could not even manage the arsenal and high-end technology it possessed.

He categorically dismissed reports that India had communicated to Pakistan about the accidental firing of the missile immediately after it happened. “They did not inform Pakistan. Rather they took two and a half days to come up with an explanation and that too after Pakistan publicly demanded it,” he maintained.

Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi, too, urged the international community to take note of the incident. In a statement released by the Foreign Office, the minister called it a “worrisome” incident, adding the government would communicate its details to the five permanent members of the UN Security Council.

Mr Qureshi said the incident threatened the safety of commercial airlines that were operating in the area at that time as well as the lives of people on the ground. “You call it Indian act of aggression, malafide intent, or technical glitch … Delhi’s attitude has been irresponsible and it should be held accountable for that.”

India regrets ‘accidental’ missile landing

The Indian Defence Ministry’s three-line statement explaining the missile fire came a day after Pakistan demanded to know the details of the incident.

“On 9 March 2022, in the course of a routine maintenance, a technical malfunction led to the accidental firing of a missile,” the statement said. “The Government of India has taken a serious view and ordered a high-level Court of Enquiry.”

The statement gave no details of the nature of the missile, or even that it was unarmed, as noted by the military’s spokesman, but expressed relief no one was harmed.

“It is learnt that the missile landed in an area of Pakistan. While the incident is deeply regrettable, it is also a matter of relief that there has been no loss of life due to the accident,” the Indian statement said.

The Indian Express newspaper offered sketchy details of the incident, but did not name its source. It described the projectile as an “unarmed supersonic Indian missile” that landed “124km deep inside Pakistan Wednesday”.

That the apparent accident took place in the domain of a nuclear-armed India, and impacted the territory of its nuclear archrival Pakistan would, of course, be studied by defence analysts for its fraught possibilities. However, it has happened amidst rumours of back-channel diplomatic talks between the two countries, which could explain it wasn’t going beyond a reprimand and demand for explanation.

Pakistan’s Foreign Office summoned India’s Charge d’Affaires M Suresh Kumar, who was told about the incident on Thursday night in which the “supersonic flying object” entered into Pakistan from “Suratgarh” in India at 6:43pm (local time) on March 9. Pakistan conveyed its strong protest and asked for a transparent investigation into the incident, the outcome of which must be shared with it, the Press Trust of India news agency reported.

“The Indian diplomat was conveyed that the imprudent launch of the flying object not only caused damage to civilian property but also put at risk human lives on ground,” the FO said. The Indian envoy was “told to convey to the Government of India Pakistan’s strong condemnation of this blatant violation of Pakistani airspace in contravention of the established international norms and aviation safety protocols”.

Pakistan also cautioned India to be mindful of the “unpleasant consequences of such negligence” and take effective measures to avoid the recurrence of such violations in future.

India’s statement came a day after head of the Pakistan military’s media wing, Maj Gen Iftikhar, said in a late evening press conference that an unarmed Indian supersonic missile took off from Sirsa and landed near Mian Channu in Khanewal district, around 124km inside Pakistani territory. The missile was cruising at an altitude of 40,000 feet and endangered passenger flights in both Indian and Pakistani airspace and also civilians and property on the ground, he said.

There was no discussion at the level of directors general of Military Operations of the Indian and Pakistani armies, and he had stated the onus was on India to explain the incident.

Our correspondent in New Delhi also contributed to this report.

Published in Dawn, March 12th, 2022

Opinion

Editorial

Worsening hunger
08 Dec, 2022

Worsening hunger

THAT the dollar liquidity crunch has started hurting the import of essential items such as vegetables and raw...
Bannu beheading
08 Dec, 2022

Bannu beheading

IN the brutal world of militancy, there are few rules, and the most blood-curdling of methods are applied to spread...
Smog misery
08 Dec, 2022

Smog misery

IF 2022 has taught us anything, it is that generations of reckless disregard for Mother Nature has accrued very ...
Disquiet on the western front
Updated 07 Dec, 2022

Disquiet on the western front

IT is very difficult for Pakistan to be delinked from Afghanistan, because of reasons of geography and history.
Fuel from Russia
07 Dec, 2022

Fuel from Russia

THE apparent headway made with Russia for the purchase of its crude oil, petrol and diesel at discounted prices is a...
More women SHOs
07 Dec, 2022

More women SHOs

IT is encouraging to see more employment avenues opening up for women in Pakistan, with an increasing number of...