ISLAMABAD/WASHINGTON: Rejecting India’s claim to hold a ‘court of inquiry’ of the ‘accidental’ firing of BrahMos missile, Pakistan on Saturday proposed to New Delhi a joint probe into the incident to establish facts since the missile had landed into Pakistani territory.
The Foreign Office (FO) also asked why India failed to inform Pakistan immediately about the ‘accidental launch’ of the missile and raised questions regarding the Indian safeguards against such happenings.
“Indian decision to hold an internal court of inquiry is not sufficient since the missile ended up in Pakistani territory. Pakistan demands a joint probe to accurately establish the facts surrounding the incident,” the FO said in a statement issued in response to Indian Defence Ministry’s explanation about the missile that struck a private property in Mian Channu on Wednesday evening after flying in from across the border.
India claimed that missile was ‘fired accidentally’ during a routine maintenance operation because of a technical malfunction and said a ‘high-level court of enquiry’ had been ordered into the incident.
Pakistani authorities do not trust the Indian version.
The FO believes “many loopholes and technical lapses” in Indian handling of strategic weapons led to the incident.
National Security Adviser Dr Moeed Yusuf, while giving the government’s initial response to the Indian statement on Friday, too had looked skeptical. He had urged the international community to ascertain the veracity of the Indian account.
The FO also drew the world’s attention to the serious incident and emphasized its gravity saying a response based on a misinterpretation of the situation, especially in the nuclearised environment, could have been catastrophic.
“Given the short distances and response times, any misinterpretation by the other side could lead to counter measures in self-defence with grave consequences,” it said.
“Pakistan, therefore, calls upon the international community to take serious notice of this incident of grave nature in a nuclearised environment and play its due role in promoting strategic stability in the region,” it added.
As Pakistan’s response to the incident has been widely praised, including by a number of Indians many of whom called it ‘mature’, the FO put seven questions to India related to the incident and security protocols and technical safeguards against accidental or unauthorised launch of missiles.
The FO rejected the Indian statement as a ‘simplistic explanation’ and raised the following questions: “India must explain the measures and procedures in place to prevent accidental missile launches and the particular circumstances of this incident.
“India needs to clearly explain the type and specifications of the missile that fell in Pakistani territory.
“India also needs to explain the flight path/ trajectory of the accidently launched missile and how it ultimately turned and entered into Pakistan?
“Was the missile equipped with self-destruct mechanism? Why did it fail to actualize?
“Are Indian missiles kept primed for launch even under routine maintenance?
“Why did India fail to immediately inform Pakistan about accidental launch of the missile and waited to acknowledge till after Pakistan announced the incident and sought clarification?
“Given the profound level of incompetence, India needs to explain if the missile was indeed handled by its armed forces or some rogue elements?”
These observations and concerns were later conveyed to the Indian Charge d’ Affaires, who had been summoned to the FO. The Cd’A was asked to convey to the Indian government that such serious matters could not be addressed with simplistic explanations.
The Indian official was further told that Pakistan expected ‘satisfactory response to’ and ‘clarification on its queries’.
US stance on intrusion
The US State Department said on Saturday that it had seen no evidence to suggest that the landing of an unarmed supersonic Indian missile into Pakistan was not an accident.
“We have no indication that this incident was anything other than an accident,” a State Department spokesperson told Dawn when asked if the intrusion that happened on Wednesday could further strain already tense relations between India and Pakistan. “We refer you to the Indian Ministry of Defense for any follow-up to their statement on the matter.”
On Friday, India confirmed an “accidental firing of a missile” into Pakistan, calling it “deeply regrettable”.
Asked for further comments, the US spokesperson reproduced part of the Indian statement, saying: “On 9 March 2022, in the course of routine maintenance, a technical malfunction led to the accidental firing of a missile.
“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 US State Department “has no further comment on this event”, the official added.
Published in Dawn, March 13th, 2022