The Indian Air Force (IAF) has sacked 3 officers for accidentally firing an unarmed missile into Pakistan, which violated the military’s standard operating procedures (SOPs). The nuclear-powered BrahMos missile, jointly developed by India and Russia, was fired on March 9, but there were no casualties. Pakistan raised concerns regarding India’s safety procedures that prevented accidental launches. The neighbours were able to handle the incident calmly, but India set up a Court of Inquiry (COI) to investigate the matter and bring responsible parties to account.
Is BrahMos Missile System Safe with India?
At the time of the incident, India claimed that there must be some malfunction that caused the BrahMos missile to end up in Pakistan. But now, the COI has found 3 officers responsible for “violating SOPs”, raising further suspicion. Many have questioned how anyone could falter regarding a susceptible matter like a nuclear weapon. It is not a system that anyone should be playing around with. The debate surrounding this controversy demanded a clear investigation to learn if there were some rogue elements active within the ranks of the Indian military. Another point was that if the officers were trained enough to handle the weapon systems. In either case, India has not convinced everyone that it is a trustworthy country to be having nuclear weapons.
Nuclear Neighbours Cannot Afford Miscalculation
Many military experts have long raised concerns over the tension between nuclear-armed neighbours India and Pakistan. The first-of-its-kind incident was worrisome for many due to a lot of bad blood between the 2 countries. They have engaged in several armed conflicts in the past, mainly over the disputed territory of Kashmir. Luckily, the conflict did not escalate over the BrahMos missile incident. However, the tension did increase as the unarmed missile crashed nearly 300 miles away from Islamabad (capital of Pakistan). According to the Arms Control Association (ACA) of the US, this missile has a range of 186 – 310 miles, making it able to hit Islamabad if launched from the north.
The incident led Pakistan to summon the deputy to the Indian ambassador and lodge an official protest against the “unprovoked violation of its airspace” as it was dangerous for civilians and passenger flights. Pakistan warned India to be aware of the results of such negligence and to avoid repeating the same mistake in future.
India’s previous statement suggested that there was some kind of technical glitch during routine maintenance that caused the BrahMos missile to malfunction. The news did not go well for India internationally, especially for the Philippines, which was set to buy the missile from India. It asked India what exactly was that malfunction that caused the rocket to fly itself into Pakistan. Then India updated its statement by saying that there was no technical fault “as far as they could understand”, a claim widely viewed as a sham to keep the lucrative deal going with the Philippines.