The Indian government has sacked three Indian Air Force officers over the “accidental” firing of a missile into India’s neighbour Pakistan earlier this year.
The decision concluded a six-month investigation by India into the unprecedented incident on March 9, after an Indian nuclear-capable missile was fired from the Indian Air Force base in the city of Sirsa, into the Pakistani city of Mian Channu, over 170 miles away. It escalated tensions between the two nuclear-armed nations, which have a history of bitter rivalry.
No casualties were reported as India called it a technical malfunction in their newly launched land-attack cruise missile called BrahMos. But Pakistan called it an “unprovoked violation” and demanded a joint investigation.
This week, the Indian Air Force concluded the investigation. “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 Indian Air Force said in a statement.
The names of the officers haven’t been released, but the statement said they have been terminated “with immediate effect.”
Ties between India and Pakistan have been tense, at times hostile, since they were partitioned into separate independent states in 1947 after British colonial rule. The two countries achieved nuclear capabilities in 1998 and have since regularly conducted tit-for-tat tests of nuclear-capable missiles. Last year, India tested 16 ballistic and cruise missiles, and Pakistan tested 10 missiles with nearly identical capabilities. That’s about two missile tests a month between the two countries, which together control more than 300 nuclear weapons.
BrahMos, the missile that was fired in March, is a joint venture between India and Russia, and has a flight range of up to 180 miles. It’s arguably the world’s fastest cruise missile, and it’s capable of hitting Pakistan’s capital Islamabad from a northern Indian launchpad.
In a statement Wednesday, Pakistan’s foreign office rejected the results of India’s investigation of what it called the “highly irresponsible incident.” Pakistan insisted that a joint probe remains necessary, calling the “internal court of inquiry” “deficient and inadequate.”
“India has not only failed to respond to Pakistan’s demand for a joint inquiry but has also evaded the questions raised by Pakistan regarding the command-and-control system in place in India, the safety and security protocols and the reason for India’s delayed admission of the Missile launch,” the statement said.
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