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Sunday, February 18, 2024

Looking back at the Indian BrahMos missile crash in Pakistan

In hindsight, undoubtedly Pakistan showed a remarkable level of strategic restraint and unparalleled patience in relation to its cheeky neighbor India. It could only be horrific to even imagine that had Pakistan behaved in a reciprocal manner and had retaliated to such a firing of an Indian missile.

Why did the Indian supersonic cruise missile BrahMos land in Pakistan on March 9, 2022, around 6:50 pm in the evening near Mian Channu, in the Pakistani province of Punjab? A few minutes earlier while the missile was still inside the Indian territory, it was spotted and appeared on the radar screens of the Pakistan Air Force (PAF) and the latter uninterruptedly observed it till the impact.

Initially, the Indian Ministry of External Affairs and its statecraft remained totally quiet on the subject matter. However, on March 10, after a detailed news briefing by Pakistan’s Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) demonstrating the flight path and route of the missile, the Indian statecraft reluctantly begin to acknowledge the launch and its crashing inside Pakistani territory. Later, on March 11 (two days later) the India Ministry of Defence and Press Information Bureau half-heartedly bothered to acknowledge the incident.

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Understanding the matter better

The BrahMos cruise missile is a joint venture between Russia and India and is one of the most advanced terrain-hugging supersonic cruise missiles available today in the defence market. The etymology of the missile’s name came from two rivers i.e., the Brahmaputra River of India and the Moskva River of Russia. The BrahMos can be fired from air, naval surface warships, submarines, and land-based fixed and mobile platforms aimed at stationary as well as moving targets with high precision. The latter can be well judged from the fact that the Circular Error Probability (CEP) of the missile is almost 1 meter.

The BrahMos cruise missile uses ramjet propulsion technology, which is a “high-speed air-breathing propulsion” system/engine with fewer moving parts as compared to other propulsion engines. The standard range of the missile is 700 km, and the velocity is around Mach 2 to 4; however, range and velocity vary depending on the launching platform. It can carry around 300 kg of conventional as well as a nuclear warhead. For navigation and guidance, it uses Inertial Navigation System (INS), Global Positioning System (GPS), and the Russian Global Navigation Satellite System (GLONASS) and in the terminal phase it relies on active radar homing to reach the target.

The joint project was started as early as the late 1990s between the two countries and the first test was carried out in June 2001. From that time onwards, BrahMos is continuously undergoing extensive tests and it was also planned to induct a hypersonic version known as BrahMos-II having a velocity of almost Mach 6 to 8.

It is quite surprising that on February 18, 2022, the controversial Hindu Monk and the incumbent Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh Yogi Adityanath vehemently argued that in the next surgical strike against Pakistan the BrahMos used will be made in Uttar Pradesh’s Lucknow region and said that “Muskuraiye ki aap Lucknow mein hain.” Prior to this, on December 26, 2021, Yogi and the Union Defence Minister Rajnath Singh laid the foundation stone of the BrahMos missile manufacturing facility in Lucknow.

Some commentators hypothesised that following Yogi’s electoral victory in Uttar Pradesh’s Elections, Yogi and his co-conspirators mostly from the ruling right-wing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), fired the BrahMos missile into Pakistan to celebrate their victory. Seemingly, such a hypothesis could not be more than suspicions of cautious people; nevertheless, Yogi’s previous statement on February 18, 2022, its insane anti-Pakistan and anti-Muslim rhetoric greatly encouraged such a hypothesis.

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In hindsight, undoubtedly Pakistan showed a remarkable level of strategic restraint and unparalleled patience in relation to its cheeky neighbor India. It could only be horrific to even imagine that had Pakistan behaved in a reciprocal manner and had retaliated to such a firing of an Indian missile.

Pakistan’s response

It is evident from DG ISPR’s Press Briefing that the missile was detected well inside the Indian territory; however, it is worthy to probe whether any attempt was made by Pakistan to intercept the incoming flying object. Apparently, the data gathered from radar and the velocity of the flying object made the operational decision-makers to conclude that it could have been a missile and not an aircraft. Ostensibly, no surface-to-air missile (SAM) was fired to intercept the incoming missile; however, the PAF could have possibly used its electronic warfare capabilities to confuse or even jam the guidance and navigation systems of BrahMos resulting in crashing the missile after traveling 124 kilometers inside Pakistani territory.

Is India an irresponsible military power? Following the incident on March 9, 2022, the answer could not be anything else, but – yes. Accident or no accident, it is an unacceptable and irresponsible state behavior and the culminating point of reckless military power.

It is prayed that the international community especially the great powers take heed of India’s irresponsible state behaviour and keep a close watch of its advanced military arsenal from falling into the hands of religious fanatics such as the hate peddler Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath who openly advocated the use of BrahMos cruise missile against Pakistan and its citizens. It is also prayed that the international community must appreciate and acknowledge Pakistan’s strategic restraint for not responding to India’s irresponsible state behaviour. It is quite shameful on India’s part that it remained silent about the missile, and it only made a statement after Pakistan Army’s ISPR foiled India’s attempt.

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The United Nations must play its role in realising Pakistan’s plea for initiating a joint investigation and it must persuade India in doing so to prevent further (fake) accidents. If India continues to run from initiating a joint investigation, then the hypothesis of an intentional and premeditated strike against Pakistan could gain traction.


The author is a Research Associate at the Institute of Strategic Studies Islamabad (ISSI), Pakistan. He co-authored the book Realism and Exceptionalism in U.S. Foreign Policy: From Kissinger to Kerry (2020). He can be reached at mmab11@gmail.com. The views in the article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space.