India sacks three officers over Pakistan missile misfire

NEW DELHI (AFP) - The Indian air force on Tuesday (Aug 23) sacked three officers for the accidental firing of a cruise missile into nuclear-armed rival Pakistan following a months-long investigation by New Delhi.

The unarmed BrahMos surface-to-surface supersonic missile was accidently launched from a secret military base in northern India in early March before the projectile landed roughly 125km inside Pakistani territory without causing any damage to life or property.

A statement by the air force said that a probe into the incident had found three of its officers guilty of violating standard operating procedures that led to the mishap.

“These three officers have primarily been held responsible for the incident. Their services have been terminated by the Central Govt with immediate effect,” the statement said.

Islamabad had said that a “super-sonic flying object” cruising at 40,000 feet from India had violated its airspace and hit an uninhabited civilian area on March 9.

New Delhi had immediately acknowledged the mistake, which Islamabad said endangered civil air planes and lodged a diplomatic protest.

India had termed the incident “deeply regrettable” and promised an investigation at the highest level.

Pakistan had demanded a joint probe into the misfire and questioned New Delhi’s nuclear and missile safety protocols.

But in a rare instance, both the nuclear-armed nations unusually downplayed the incident despite a history of deep mistrust and hostility.

The relationship between the two nuclear-armed Asian neighbours remains tense, and the two countries have fought three wars since gaining independence from Britain in 1947.

They were on the brink of another war in February 2019 after India launched airstrikes inside Pakistan over claims that a militant group based there was behind a suicide bombing that killed 41 Indian paramilitary soldiers in the disputed Kashmir region.

The airstrikes led to diplomatic tensions, counterattacks by Pakistan fighter planes and a dogfight that saw the downing of an Indian fighter jet and brief detention of its pilot.

BrahMos is one of India’s frontline nuclear-armed projectiles and is believed to be among the fastest cruise missiles in the world. It can be launched from land, sea and air.

The cruise missiles – travelling at three times the speed of sound – are jointly developed by India and Russia, and named after India’s river Brahmaputra and Russia’s Moskva River, with ranges varying from 300km to 700km.


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