Missile Accidentally Launches Into Pakistan
An unarmed missile accidentally misfired from Indian soil landed 124 km inside Pakistan territory. India on Friday acknowledged "technical malfunction led to the accidental firing of a missile". New Delhi’s response came a day after Islamabad summoned the Indian Charge d’Affaires and lodged a strong protest against the incident. Pakistan was not amused, particularly as the missile damaged the wall of a residential building. The country has ordered an investigation into the incident and warned India “to be mindful of the unpleasant consequences of such negligence and take effective measures to avoid the recurrence of such violations in future.” Still, India tried to put a positive spin on the misfire. “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.”
Under the pre-notification of flight testing of ballistic missiles agreement signed in 2005, each country must provide the other an advance notification on flight test it intends to take for any land or sea launched, suface-to-surface ballistic missile. Before the test, the country must issue Notice to Air Missions (NOTAM) or Navigational Warning (NAVAREA) to alert aviation pilots and seafarers, respectively. Also, the testing country must ensure that the launch site is not within 40 km, and the planned impact area is not within 75 km of either the International Boundary (IB) or the Line of Control (LoC). The planned trajectory should not cross the IB or the LoC and must maintain a horizontal distance of at least 40 km from the border. The testing country must notify the other nation “no less than three days in advance of the commencement of a five day launch window within which it intends to undertake flight tests of any land or sea launched, surface-to-surface ballistic missile”. The pre-notification has to be “conveyed through the respective Foreign Offices and the High Commissions, as per the format annexed to this Agreement.”
Pakistan had earlier 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 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 the civilian property. A striking aspect of the episode is that the missile changed direction mid-air. Pakistan said that after picking off from Sirsa, 104 km from the nearest point on the border, the missile cruised for around 70-80 km within Indian territory, moving southwest towards Mahajan Field Firing Range of the Indian armed forces, then suddenly changed direction to northwest, and entered Pakistani territory before hitting the ground 124 km inside.
Neither country has spelt out what kind of a missile it was. Pakistan has only called it a “supersonic” missile. Some experts have speculated that it was a test of one of India's top missiles, BrahMos, jointly developed with Russia. Other experts have wondered if the missile was a variant of the nuclear-capable Prithvi. Sources said some of the assets of the Strategic Forces command, which is responsible for India’s nuclear arsenal, are based close to the region from where the missile was fired. However, Indian ever tests Prithvi around this region, and only does so from Balasore.
Think tank in New Delhi, said there are very few reasons for a missile to change its direction thus. He said the known facts are that “it flew, it took a path, that path was not normal, then it took a different direction, after doing nearly 100 km”. For a cruise missile, “you have to give target coordinates” when fired from the ground, and “after that she is on her own”. There are also some missiles for which the coordinates can be updated in flight. “First thing could be that the coordinates are not correct. But in this particular case, the missile has gone in a particular direction, and then turned. If it was wrong coordinates, it should have gone straight there. Because normally it will only turn in the last stages. So, the type of turn she has taken, that means the coordinates could not have had been wrong. Another possibility “is if somebody was to jam the missile while in flight, by some cyber means — a conjecture. Then the whole coordinates get affected, changing the direction.”
“A missile like that has a destruct fuse, which means from the ground you should be able to destroy it in flight if you think it has gone haywire. We do not know: was it loss of contact altogether, that you could not activate self-destroy?” What can also cause a malfunction is “if the target data that has been fed into the missile gets corrupted, then takes a different direction all together.” Had the missile crashed, “then we know some controls had failed... She had flown straight, then turned, then flown straight. She has not done any funny manoeuvres. Considering that, if she has not done any fancy manoeuvres, has sometime during flight the destination got corrupted?” He noted that cyber intervention is in neither country's interest. “Maybe it’s a one time failure inside, of one digit, in the coordinates. It’s not in India’s interest to do such a thing, nor in Pakistan’s interest... All that needs to come out. You don’t want a situation between two nuclear countries.”