India fires officers for accidental missile launch into Pakistan

The incident in March led to questions over safety mechanisms to prevent accidental launches or miscalculations.

India rocket space programme
Military experts have in the past warned of the risk of accidents or miscalculations by the neighbours [File: Reuters]

The Indian Air Force has said the government sacked three officers for accidentally firing a missile into Pakistan in March.

Military experts have in the past warned of the risk of accidents or miscalculations by the neighbours, which have fought three wars and engaged in numerous smaller armed clashes, usually over the disputed territory of Kashmir.

“A Court of Inquiry, set up to establish the facts of the case, including fixing responsibility for the incident, found that deviation from the Standard Operating Procedures by three officers led to the accidental firing of the missile,” the air force said in a statement on Tuesday.

The BrahMos missile – a nuclear-capable, land-attack cruise missile jointly developed by Russia and India – was fired on March 9, prompting Pakistan to seek answers from New Delhi about the reported accident.

Safety concerns

The incident, which may have been the first of its kind, immediately raised questions about safety mechanisms in place to prevent accidental launches and raised worries as both countries possess nuclear weapons.

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

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

After the incident, Pakistan’s foreign office summoned India’s charge d’affaires in Islamabad to lodge a protest against what it called an unprovoked violation of its airspace, saying the incident could have endangered passenger flights and civilian lives.

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

Source: News Agencies