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30 Mar, 2024 09:43

Indian military explains accidental missile launch into Pakistan

New Delhi attributed the incident, which took place in March 2022, to a ‘technical malfunction’ during maintenance
Indian military explains accidental missile launch into Pakistan

The Indian Air Force (IAF) has disclosed the details behind an accidental launch of a BrahMos supersonic missile into Pakistan, the Indian Times reported on Saturday, citing a statement the IAF made to the Delhi High Court.

The incident took place on March 9, 2022, when a missile violated Pakistan’s airspace and eventually crashed in the eastern province of Mian Channu. Islamabad condemned the “flagrant violation” of its airspace, but refrained from taking any measures in response. New Delhi blamed the launch on a “technical malfunction” and called the entire incident “deeply regrettable” in an official apology.

The IAF this week shared its findings regarding the misfire, saying that the missile’s combat connectors, which “remained connected to the junction box,” led to the accidental launch. It also disclosed that the unit commander of a road convoy which was transporting the missile launcher “failed to ensure safe transit of the convoy by not ensuring disconnection of combat connectors of all missiles loaded.”

The IAF acknowledged that the incident “affect[ed] the relations” between India and Pakistan, and noted that three officials who accompanied the missile launcher had been dismissed for misconduct.

The IAF statement came in response to a petition filed in the Delhi High Court by Wing Commander Abhinav Sharma, one of the three dismissed officers, who placed the blame for the incident on Air Commodore and Squadron Leader JT Kurien. However, the IAF denied his charge, stressing that Kurien “was not responsible for the operations undertaken by the unit.”

The incident caused concern internationally, especially given that India and Pakistan, both nuclear states, are fierce rivals and have engaged in several armed clashes over the years.

The US accepted India’s explanation that the errant launch was an accident, while China urged the two countries to probe the matter jointly and find ways to avoid future “misunderstanding and misjudgment,” noting that both are “important countries in South Asia, bearing responsibilities for maintaining regional security and stability.”

The most recent skirmishes between India and Pakistan took place in 2019, involving cross-border airstrikes and exchanges of gunfire across the de facto border in the disputed Kashmir region, to which both countries have territorial claims. The clashes resulted in New Delhi and Islamabad severing nearly all diplomatic and trade ties. However, earlier this month, Pakistani Foreign Minister Muhammad Ishaq Dar signaled that Islamabad is willing to restore business ties with the neighboring nation.