Indian missile incident

Published August 26, 2022

THE intrusion of an Indian nuclear-capable BrahMos missile into Pakistani territory in March was a grave incident that could have had disastrous consequences. Fortunately, Pakistan handled the incident in a mature fashion and it was a relief that the projectile caused no loss of life when it crashed in Mian Channu, Punjab. Wrapping up the investigation into the episode, the Indian Air Force recently sacked three officers for the “violation of Standard Operating Procedures” that caused the “accidental firing of the missile”. However, Pakistan has rejected these findings, with the Foreign Office terming the probe “unsatisfactory, deficient and inadequate”. Indeed, many questions remain unanswered about the chilling event. After all, it was no stray bullet. Thorough answers are needed to determine how a missile capable of carrying nuclear warheads was ‘accidentally’ launched in Pakistan’s direction. The fact that the missile caused no loss of life can only be described as a miracle. As per the PAF, at the time the missile was picked up there were several airliners in the surrounding airspace. The FO, therefore, is right in demanding a joint probe. Also, questions need to be asked domestically to get an idea of how the projectile managed to travel over 100km inside Pakistani territory for almost four minutes.

To ensure such dangerous miscalculations are not repeated, it is essential that the militaries of both countries keep channels of communication open at all times. Due to strained bilateral relations, such contacts have been patchy and largely frozen, especially since India did away with held Kashmir’s special status in August 2019. For example, the respective directors general of military operations made hotline contact in February last year. Both sides decided to revive the 2003 LoC ceasefire agreement after that exchange, but no follow-up meetings appear to have taken place since then. Regular contact between the DGMOs needs to be revived while communication lines between field commanders at the lower level also need to stay open. India had reportedly failed to immediately share information about the missile misfire with Pakistan. Suffice it to say, New Delhi needs to ensure that such blunders are not repeated while our military must remain alert so that the country is protected from all external threats. In a combustible regional atmosphere, and with such powerful weapons involved, there simply can be no room for error, especially when mistakes such as this one have the potential to spark conflict.

Published in Dawn, August 26th, 2022

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