Indian missile misfire: An unprecedented danger
ON 09 March 2022 a supersonic missile crossed the Indian border, covering a distance of 124km across the border and crashed into Pakistan destroying a civilian building.
It is believed to be a BrahMos cruise missile, with a range of 292-400km, jointly developed by India and Russia.
This is the first ever incident in the nuclear history, wherein a missile has been fired from a nuclear state into another nuclear state.
On top of that, India remained quiet for 48 hrs after the incident; and was provoked to answer only after Pakistan’s military spokesperson went to highlight this grave incident in media.
India termed the incident as accidental firing of missile during routine maintenance and a technical malfunction.
However, now the Indian government has changed the narrative and has termed the incident to be a “human error’ and to review the Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) with regards to missile handling.
This seems even more signalling as it indicates India’s poor handling of such sensitive technology.
This also indicates that the authority to launch the missile has been delegated to lower authorities which even increases the risk of accidental war as in case of cannisterised weapons warheads permanently mated with the missiles), such negligence can’t be tolerated.
The supersonic missile travelling at such a higher speed can’t take 90 degrees sudden turn provided its fast speed of Mach 3.
Furthermore, the timing it was launched sparks concerns of its technical maintenance; as such matters are done during the day, not in the twilight.
Despite having the 2004 hotline agreement between the two countries, the so-called accidental launch had not been intimated.
Moreover, if at all it was accidental, as claimed by India, normally a missile has a self-destruct system mechanism, which is controlled from the ground, and the missile could be destroyed mid-flight to prevent any damage, but certainly it was not done.
The incident is, however, a flagrant violation of Pakistani airspace. Moreover, it could have hit any passenger plane, provided it travelled at a height of 40,000 ft causing human loss as well.
As far as Indian intentions are concerned, whether it was accidental or intentional, considering the above facts and Indian aggressive counterforce posture and aggressive designs against Pakistan, this could be an attempt to asses Pakistan’s deterrence capabilities and unclear response measures.
India wants to undermine Pakistan’s deterrent capabilities. This war-prone behaviour of India needs to be changed as it could result in disastrous consequences.
Pakistan’ military spokesperson made it very clear that Pakistan forces are alert to any threat and the challenges it face.
However, this incident sparks a dire need to re-invigorate the Confidence Building Mechanism between the two nuclear South Asian countries.
Moreover, an agreement similar to the Pre-Notification of Flight-Testing of Ballistic Missile should be made for the cruise missiles testing as well, in order to minimize the risk of nuclear-related accidents.
The response of Pakistan has been so mature, as if Pakistan could have retaliated, after identifying an aerial object coming from India, believing it to be an attack, the results could have been disastrous.
Pakistan has always made efforts for restoring regional peace and stability, which India has always tried to destabilize due to its immature ruling authority.
The political elite has always used the aggressive war-prone card against Pakistan in front of public for their political gains, without realizing the repercussions, which shows the ill-mindset of India’s ruling power.
Moreover, the world has seen numerous instances of Uranium theft in India, which indicates weak safety and security protocols and weak Command and Control structure in India to handle such precarious technology.
The Indian obsession of acquisition of newer technology could result in the accidental or inadvertent war in South Asia, provided its unproven capability to manage it.
This shows India being an irresponsible nuclear weapon state and the international community should look into this child state that is incompetent to manage nuclear and nuclear-related technology and delivery vehicles, and is thus a threat to the regional and global peace and security.
—The writer is Research Associate, at Strategic Vision Institute, Islamabad.