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India regrets ‘accidental’ firing of missile that landed in Pakistan, orders probe

The Defence Ministry said in a statement Friday that on March 9 “in the course of a routine maintenance, a technical malfunction led to the accidental firing of a missile”.

The Government of India, it said, “has taken a serious view and ordered a high-level Court of Enquiry”.

“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,” the statement said.

Pakistan summoned the Indian envoy regarding the incident Friday and conveyed its strong protest and asked for a transparent investigation of the incident. PTI reported that India’s Charge d’Affaires M Suresh Kumar was told Thursday night about the incident in which an Indian “supersonic flying object” entered into Pakistan from “Suratgarh” in India at 6:43 PM (local time) on March 9.

“The Indian diplomat was conveyed that the imprudent launch of the flying object not only caused damage to civilian property but also put at risk human lives on ground,” Pakistan’s Foreign Office (FO) said, according to PTI. The Indian envoy was “told to convey to the Government of India Pakistan’s strong condemnation of this blatant violation of Pakistani airspace in contravention of the established international norms and aviation safety protocols,” the Foreign Office said and asked India for a thorough and transparent investigation of the incident, the outcome of which must be shared with it.

It also cautioned India to be mindful of the unpleasant consequences of such negligence and take effective measures to avoid the recurrence of such violations in future, PTI quoted Pakistan’s Foreign Office.

India’s statement comes a day after Pakistan’s military spokesperson Maj General Babar Ifthikar said in a late evening press conference that an unarmed Indian supersonic missile took off from Sirsa and landed near Mian Channu in Khanewal district, around 124 km inside Pakistani territory. The missile was cruising at an altitude of 40,000 feet and endangered passenger flights in both Indian and Pakistani airspace and also civilians and property on the ground, he said.

There were no human casualties but it hit a wall where it landed. There was no discussion exchanged at the level of Directors General of Military Operations of Indian and Pakistani Army and he had stated that the onus was on India to explain the incident.

Ifthikar said that at 6:43 pm Wednesday “a high speed flying object was picked up inside Indian flying territory by Air Defence Operations Centre of the Pakistani Air Force. From its initial course, the object suddenly maneuvered towards Pakistani territory and violated Pakistan’s airspace.”

“The incident could have resulted in a major aviation disaster as well as civilian casualties on round,” Ifthikar added.

He further said, “It nevertheless shows their disregard for aviation safety and reflects very poorly on their tech prowess and procedural efficiency.”

He also said that Pakistan “strongly protests this flagrant violation and cautions against recurrence of any such incident in future”.

The missile had taken off around 6:03 pm from Sirsa in India and was at an high-altitude of 40,000 feet, traveling at 2.5 times to 3 times the speed of sound. Initially it was headed towards India’s Mahajan Field Firing bases but after traveling around 70 to 80 km, it changed direction while maintaining the same altitude and speed and headed northwest towards the Pakistani airspace.

Neither India nor Pakistan has identified what kind of missile it was.

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