New Delhi: A day after Defence Minister Rajnath Singh explained to parliament how a missile was “inadvertently launched” on March 9 and landed in Pakistan, a Bloomberg report claims that Pakistan had prepared to launch a similar missile in a retaliatory strike.
Pakistan held back because an initial assessment indicated something was amiss, Bloomberg quoted unnamed sources as saying.
The Indian Air Force fired the BrahMos medium-range cruise missile from Haryana’s Ambala, about 200 km from Delhi, the Bloomberg report said. The missile damaged some residential property but caused no casualties.
India didn’t use the direct hotline between the top army commanders on both sides to inform Pakistan, the Bloomberg report said. Instead, Air Force officials moved to shut down the missile systems to avoid any further launches, reported Bloomberg.
Both the Indian Air Force and the Ministry of Defence in India have declined to respond to questions posed by NDTV on this report.
The Pakistan Air Force said it tracked the flight path of the missile from Sirsa in Haryana to its landing spot in Mian Channu city in Pakistan’s Punjab province, military spokesman Major General Babar Iftikhar told reporters last weekend.
The government had said that the accidental firing took place because of a “technical malfunction in the course of routine maintenance”.
In parliament, Rajnath Singh said the government is reviewing Standard Operating Procedures for operations, maintenance and inspections after the incident. “India gives utmost priority to the safety and security of its missile systems and any gap revealed by the probe will be addressed,” he said.
Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi said on Tuesday “if Pakistan’s Air Force didn’t pick it up inside India and it was matched with an accident reaction”, the consequences would have been “very serious”.
The US has backed India and said there is no indication that the missile firing was anything other than accidental.
“We have no indication as you also heard from our Indian partners that this incident was anything other than an accident,” State Department spokesperson Ned Price told reporters on Monday.
Ties between India and Pakistan are at a historic low since 2019, when soldiers were killed in a suicide attack in Jammu and Kashmir’s Pulwama. India responded by launching air strikes in Pakistan’s Balakot, which was followed by an aerial dogfight between the neighbours.