The Indian Air Force said on Tuesday the government had sacked three officers for “accidentally” firing a missile into Pakistan in March, an incident that the two nuclear-armed rivals handled calmly as there were no casualties.
The BrahMos missile — a nuclear-capable, land-attack cruise missile jointly developed by Russia and India — was fired on March 9, prompting Pakistan to seek answers from New Delhi on the safety mechanisms in place to prevent accidental launches.
“A Court of Inquiry, set up to establish the facts of the case, including fixing responsibility for the incident, found that deviation from the Standard Operating Procedures by three officers led to the accidental firing of the missile,” the air force said in a statement.
It said the government had dismissed the three officers with immediate effect on Tuesday.
In an official statement by New Delhi on Tuesday, India formally concluded the inquiry into the “accidental firing” of the missile and found three officials guilty of not following the laid down SoPs.
“A BrahMos missile was accidentally fired on 9 March 2022. A court of inquiry (COI), set up to establish the fact of the case, including fixing responsibility for the incident, found that deviation from the standard operating procedures by three officers led to the accidental firing of the missile,” read the Indian defence ministry statement.
“These three officers have primarily been held responsible for the incident. Their services have been terminated by the central government with immediate effect. Termination orders have been served upon the officers on 23 August, 2022,” the statement added.
India, while admitting the accidental firing of the missile, rejected the joint probe demand by Pakistan and instead ordered a court of inquiry.
Apart from seeking a joint probe, Pakistan had sought answers from India on specific questions.
There is no immediate reaction from Pakistan to the termination of Indian officers. It is not clear either whether India first shared the findings of the court of inquiry with Pakistan.
Pakistan was praised for its mature handling of the missile fiasco as chief military spokesperson Major General Babar Iftikhar in his press conference soon after the incident avoided escalating the matter and instead offered India an opportunity to come clean over the issue.
Islamabad also wrote a letter to the UN Security Council urging the world body to demand from the government of India to (a) hold a joint investigation into the missile incident along with Pakistan to accurately establish the facts surrounding the incident; (b) desist from any further actions that would jeopardise regional peace and security; and (c) take measures to provide reassurances to Pakistan and the world community about the security and safety of India’s weapons systems and the credibility of its command and control systems.
According to the US-based Arms Control Association, the BrahMos missile’s range is between 300 km (186 miles) and 500 km (310 miles), making it capable of hitting Pakistan’s capital Islamabad from a northern Indian launch pad.
Pakistan had summoned Indian Charge d’Afaires (Cd’A) to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs days after the incident to record the nation’s protest over the incident.
“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,” a statement by the FO stated.