India says it accidentally fired a missile at Pakistan

FILE PHOTO: A farmer carries a grass sack as he walks in Ranbir Singh Pura near the fenced India-Pakistan border
FILE PHOTO: A farmer carries a sack of grass as he walks near the fenced India-Pakistan border in the Ranbir Singh Pura sector near Jammu March 1, 2019. REUTERS/Adnan Abidi/ /File Photo

March 12, 2022

By Asif Shahzad, Krishna N. Das and Gibran Naiyyar Peshimam

ISLAMABAD/NEW DELHI (Reuters) – India said on Friday it accidentally fired a missile at Pakistan this week because of a “technical malfunction” during routine maintenance, giving its version of events after Pakistan called India’s envoy to protest would have.

Military experts have in the past warned of the risk of accidents or miscalculations by nuclear-armed neighbors, who have fought three wars and engaged in numerous minor armed clashes, usually over the disputed territory of Kashmir.

Tensions have eased in recent months and the incident, which may have been the first of its kind, immediately raised questions about security mechanisms.

“On March 9, 2022, a technical failure during routine maintenance resulted in the accidental launch of a missile,” India’s Defense Ministry said in a three-paragraph statement.

“It became known that the rocket landed in an area in Pakistan. While the incident is deeply unfortunate, it is also a relief that no lives were lost as a result of the accident.”

The ministry said the government had “taken serious consideration and ordered a high-level investigative tribunal”.

Pakistani officials said the missile was unarmed and crashed near the country’s eastern city of Mian Channu, some 500 km (310 miles) from the capital Islamabad.

Pakistan’s Foreign Ministry called on India’s chargé d’affaires in Islamabad to protest an alleged unprovoked violation of its airspace, saying the incident could have endangered passenger flights and civilian lives.

Pakistan warned India “to be aware of the unpleasant consequences of such negligence and to take effective measures to avoid the repetition of such violations in the future”.

Following India’s admission, Pakistan’s national security adviser Moeed Yusuf said it was “highly irresponsible” for New Delhi not to immediately notify Islamabad of the unintended launch of a missile.

“The true circumstances of this incident also need to be investigated to determine whether it was an unintentional launch or something more premeditated,” Yusuf said on Twitter.

Asked for comment, a US State Department spokesman said: “The Department has no indication that this incident was anything other than an accident and we refer you to the Indian Ministry of Defense to follow up on their statement on the matter.”

Ayesha Siddiqa, an expert on military affairs and South Asian affairs, wrote on Twitter that “India-Pak should talk about risk reduction”.

“Both states remain confident about nuclear weapons control, but what if such accidents happen again and have more serious consequences?”


A senior Pakistani security official told Reuters on condition of anonymity that the incident had raised alarms and could have escalated to a “critical adverse situation.”

“The admission that it was a missile was very casual,” he said. “What does that say about their safety mechanisms and the technical capabilities of very dangerous weapons? The international community needs to take a very close look at this.”

The official said it may be a BrahMos missile – a nuclear-capable land-attack cruise missile jointly developed by Russia and India.

According to the US-based Arms Control Association, the missile’s range is between 300 km (186 miles) and 500 km (310 miles), making it capable of hitting Islamabad from a northern Indian launch pad.

The Pakistani official wondered if the incident meant that India “had missiles in ready-to-launch positions and aimed at Pakistan, even without securing a command and control system.”

A Pakistani military spokesman told a news conference Thursday night that a “high-speed aircraft” crashed out of the northern Indian city of Sirsa in eastern Pakistan.

“The flight path of this object endangered many domestic and international passenger flights in both Indian and Pakistani airspace, as well as human life and property on the ground,” he said.

A Pakistan Air Force official said the object, which was flying at 40,000 feet and three times the speed of sound, flew 124 km (77 miles) in Pakistani airspace.

Happymon Jacob, a professor of international studies at Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi, said both sides handled the situation well.

“It gives me great hope that the two nuclear-armed states have dealt with the missile incident in a mature manner,” he wrote on Twitter. “New Delhi should offer compensation for the destroyed Pak house.”

(Additional reporting by Syed Raza Hasan, Gibran Peshimam and Nigam Prusty and Davbid Brunnstrom in Washington; Editing by Kenneth Maxwell, Frances Kerry, William Maclean and Daniel Wallis) India says it accidentally fired a missile at Pakistan

Bobby Allyn

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