A missile was fired accidentally from the Indian side into an area in Pakistan earlier this week, the Defence Ministry said on Thursday, blaming the incident on a “technical malfunction” that was “deeply regrettable”.
“On 9 March 2022, in the course of routine maintenance, a technical malfunction led to the accidental firing of a missile. The Government of India has taken a serious view and ordered a high-level Court of Enquiry,” the Ministry of Defence said in a statement.
“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,” it added.
According to Pakistan, the missile flew more than 100 km inside their airspace, at an altitude of 40,000 feet and at three times the speed of sound, before it landed. There was no warhead on the missile so it did not detonate.
But the country’s foreign office said it had summoned India’s charge d’affaires in Islamabad to protest what it called an unprovoked violation of its airspace. Pakistan called for an investigation into the incident, which it said 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”.
A day ago, Pakistani military spokesperson Major-General Babar Iftikhar said in a late evening news conference that a “high-speed flying object” crashed near its eastern city of Mian Channu and that originated from the northern Indian city of Sirsa, in Haryana state near New Delhi.
The incident has left military experts puzzled since the firing of a missile system involves a preparation process, the identification of a target and toggling of multiple switches.
Happymon Jacob, a professor of international studies at Delhi’s Jawaharlal Nehru University, said both sides handled the situation well.
“It gives me great hope that the 2 nuclear weapon states dealt with the missile incident in a mature manner,” he wrote on Twitter. “New Delhi should offer to pay compensation for the Pak house that was destroyed.”
“Given the incident … India-Pak should be talking about risk mitigation,” wrote Ayesha Siddiqa, an expert on military affairs and South Asian matters.
“Both states have remained confident about control of nuclear weapons but what if such accidents happen again & with more serious consequences?”
(With inputs from Reuters)