Defence ministry orders probe into technical malfunction
Islamabad: Pakistan on Friday summoned India’s Charge d’Affaires here and conveyed its strong protest over the alleged unprovoked violation of its airspace by an Indian missile and sought a thorough and transparent investigation into the incident that could have resulted in a serious aviation accident.
The Indian diplomat who was summoned to the Foreign Office was told about the alleged violation of its airspace by an Indian-origin super-sonic flying object which entered into Pakistan from Suratgarh in India at 6:43 PM (local time) on March 9, the Foreign Office said in a statement.
The object later fell on the ground near Mian Chunnu city in Pakistan’s Punjab province at around 6:50 PM on the same day, causing damage to civilian property.
In New Delhi, India’s defence ministry on Friday said a technical malfunction in the course of a routine maintenance led to the accidental firing of a missile on March 9.
The ministry said the missile landed in an area of Pakistan and noted that the “incident is deeply regrettable”.
The Defence Ministry said the Government of India has taken a serious view of the incident and ordered a high-level Court of Enquiry into it.
In Islamabad, Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi also voiced concern over the incident.
In a statement, Qureshi alleged that India had endangered innocent lives by violating Pakistan’s airspace as flights of Saudi and Qatar airlines, as well as domestic flights, could have been hit.
He said Pakistan would decide its next step after receiving India’s explanation, adding that envoys of P-5 countries (China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States) will be called to the Foreign Office and briefed about the incident.
“India will have to be answerable for this,” he said.
Air Vice Marshall Tariq Zia, who addressed a press conference on Thursday, said that at the time the projectile was picked up by the Pakistani military, there were two active airway routes and several commercial airlines were in the area.
“If you look at the speed and height of the projectile, it was 40,000 feet high, and the airlines were between 35,000 to 42,000 feet. This could have been very detrimental to the safety of passengers.”
The projectile travelled 124 kilometres inside Pakistani territory in three minutes and 44 seconds, he added.
The FO also said the flight path of the flying object endangered several domestic/international flights within the Pakistani airspace and could have resulted in a serious aviation accident as well as civilian casualties, it said.
The Indian Cd’A 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 FO said.
Pakistan also asked India for a thorough and transparent investigation of the incident, the outcome of which must be shared with it.
Moreover, the Government of India is cautioned to be mindful of the unpleasant consequences of such negligence and take effective measures to avoid the recurrence of such violations in future, said the FO.
Separately, Pakistan Army spokesman Major General Babar Iftikhar said that on March 9, a hi-speed flying object was picked up inside the Indian territory by the Air Defence Operations Center of the Pakistan Air Force.
Pakistan strongly protests this flagrant violation and cautions against recurrence of any such incident in future, he said.
Pakistan Air Force continuously monitored the complete flight path of the flying object from its point of origin Sirsa in India till its point of impact near Mian Channu and initiated requisite tactical actions in accordance with standard operating procedures, he said.
Ties between India and Pakistan nose-dived after an attack on the Pathankot Air Force base in 2016 by militant groups based in the neighbouring country. Subsequent attacks, including one on an Indian Army camp in Uri, further deteriorated the relationship.
The relationship deteriorated further after India announced withdrawing the special powers of Jammu and Kashmir and bifurcation of the state into two union territories in August, 2019.
India’s move to revoke the special status of Jammu and Kashmir in 2019 outraged Pakistan, which downgraded diplomatic ties and expelled the Indian High Commissioner in Islamabad. It also snapped all air and land links with India and suspended trade and railway services.
India has said that it desires normal neighbourly relations with Pakistan in an environment free of terror, hostility, and violence. PTI