Islamabad/New Delhi (Reuters) – India said on Friday it had accidentally fired a missile into Pakistan this week because of a “technical malfunction” during routine maintenance, giving its version of events after Pakistan summoned India’s envoy to protest.
Military experts have in the past warned of the risk of accidents or miscalculations by the nuclear-armed neighbours, which have fought three wars and engaged in numerous smaller armed clashes, usually over the disputed territory of Kashmir.
Tensions have eased in recent months, and the incident, which may have been the first of its kind, immediately raised questions about safety mechanisms.
“On 9 March 2022, in the course of a routine maintenance, a technical malfunction led to the accidental firing of a missile,” the Indian Ministry of Defence said in a statement.
“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 ministry said the government had “taken a serious view and ordered a high-level Court of Enquiry”.
Pakistan’s foreign office summoned India’s charge d’affaires in Islamabad to lodge a protest over what it called an unprovoked violation of its airspace, saying the incident could have endangered passenger flights and civilian lives.
Pakistan warned India “to be mindful of the unpleasant consequences of such negligence and take effective measures to avoid the recurrence off such violations in future”.
Ayesha Siddiqa, an expert on military affairs and South Asian matters, tweeted that “India-Pak should be talking about risk mitigation”.
“Both states have remained confident about control of nuclear weapons but what if such accidents happen again & with more serious consequences?”
A Pakistani military spokesman told a news conference on Thursday evening that a “high-speed flying object” originating from the northern Indian city of Sirsa had crashed in eastern Pakistan, near the city of Mian Channu.
“The flight path of this object endangered many national and international passenger flights both in Indian and Pakistani airspace as well as human life and property on ground,” he said.
A Pakistan air force official said the object, flying at 40,000 feet and three times the speed of sound, had flown 124 km (77 miles) in Pakistani airspace.
Happymon Jacob, a professor of international studies at New Delhi’s Jawaharlal Nehru University, said both sides had handled the situation well.
“It gives me great hope that the 2 nuclear weapon states dealt with the missile incident in a mature manner,” he wrote on Twitter. “New Delhi should offer to pay compensation for the Pak house that was destroyed.”