An “inadvertent” launch of a missile by India nearly triggered a retaliatory strike from Pakistan, reported Bloomberg citing people familiar with the matter. It further added that Pakistan only backed out of the plan because the initial assessment, conducted by the response team, indicated something “amiss.” The Indian missile ended up damaging only residential property and, to their “relief,” caused no casualties.
To clarify, on March 9, the PAF Air Defense Operation System detected a high-speed flying object inside the Indian territory. The object was picked up at 18:43 hours which, after remaining airborne, suddenly deviated from its initial course and intruded into Pakistani territory. DG ISPR revealed a statement and described it as “a supersonic flying object.”
In an immediate response, Pakistan summoned India’s Charge d’Affaires (Cd’A) to lodge a strong protest over the violation of its airspace. Pakistan also warned the Indian government of the unpleasant consequences of such negligence. Soon after, India released its own statement in which the nuclear state pinned the blame on a “technical malfunction” during routine maintenance.
…of the incident and subject the safety and security protocols of Indian strategic assets to deliberate oversight. Such dangerous incidents can act as trigger and seriously endanger regional peace and strategic stability. (3/5)
— DG ISPR (@OfficialDGISPR) March 15, 2022
The statement read, “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 initiated an investigation into the matter, but Pakistan asserts that a “joint probe” should be conducted.
In light of the recent incident, Pakistan Army held the 248th session of the Corp Commander Conference at General Headquarters. The meeting was presided by General Qamar Javed Bajwa, and the forum was given a comprehensive briefing on regional and international developments. According to the military’s media wing, the forum “reviewed with concern, the recent incident of missile-firing” and asserted that the “relevant international forums must take a serious view.”
Islamabad has also listed a series of questions regarding security protocols and technical safeguards against the accidental or unauthorized launch of missiles. Furthermore, China has also urged the two countries to launch a thorough investigation into the matter.
Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Zhao Lijian, in a regular press briefing, said, “We call on relevant countries to have dialogue and communication as soon as possible and launch a thorough investigation into this incident, strengthen information sharing and establish a notification mechanism in time to prevent the recurrence of such incidents and miscalculations,”
However, in a press briefing, US State Department Spokesperson Ned Price said that it had “no indication” that the Indian missile launch was “anything other than an accident”. When questioned about India’s lax safety and security protocols regarding fissile mater and the increasing incidents of uranium theft in India, he replied, “I’m not familiar with that particular incident”.
According to a research paper issued by a Pakistani think tank, SASSI, 18 cases of nuclear theft from India have been reported from 1994 to 2021. Moreover, a significant uptick of such incidents was reported in recent years, especially in 2021, which recorded multiple cases of nuclear material theft from India.
Such incidents point to lax control, poor regulation, and incompetence on the part of the regulatory and the enforcement authority. Pakistan has repeatedly called for the international community to ensure nuclear safety and security standards in its neighboring country, which has emerged as a hotspot for such activities in recent years.
In 2019, India conducted an aerial bombing on February 26 in Balakot, Pakistan, against an alleged terrorist training camp. On the following day, Pakistan conducted the operation “Swift Retort” and shot down an Indian warplane and took its pilot prisoner.