Can safety of South Asia afford any technical failure of India?

Asad Ali

A few days back a flying object later identified as BrahMos Indian missile intercepted inside the Pakistan’s territory 124 kilometres from the border causing a serious security threat to the integrity of the country.

The Indian confession that it was accidentally fired during routine maintenance raises many questions on the capability of India’s command and control system on its arsenal.

The “deep regrets” from Indian side requires diplomatic intervention not only from Pakistan but also from the global community till it is duly compensated.

The matter requires joint investigation as to how the Indians could be this much irresponsible to shoot a missile without any caution and precautionary measures.

Although it is gratifying that there were no casualties in this accident yet the security flaws in the system of Indian sophisticated weapons must be probed by a joint investigation team constituted by the UN as it is a matter which otherwise could have ignited war between the two countries.

Soon after the incident, the Pakistani Ministry of Foreign Affairs summoned the Chargé d’Affaires of India in Islamabad to register a strong protest for serious violation of Pakistan’s airspace.

It has been well communicated to India to “realize the dire consequences of such negligence and take effective measures to avoid such violations in the future”.

The calmness of the Indian side regarding this serious incident for whole two days is also a criminal negligence as it merely apologized on its “technical failure” which is also a matter of high concern for the international community in addition to Pakistan.

In this regard, Cheng Xizhong, a distinguished professor of Southwest University of Political Science and Law, a commentator of the Asia-Pacific Daily, and a former military attache to South Asian countries, believes that no matter what “reasons” India finds, the fact that India has violated Pakistan’s airspace is an extremely serious incident.

Either an incident or a deliberate attempt to show its jaws to Pakistan in both cases it reflects the intrusion behaviour of India towards neighbouring countries which this time should not be taken for granted.

Cheng Xizhong pointed out that the Indian army not only has a large number of conventional missiles, but also has 150 nuclear warheads, which can strike the entire trans-Himalayan region.

Therefore, if India has frequent “technical failures” at this level, these missiles, especially those carrying nuclear warheads, may be launched to any place within its strike range at any time, including China, Pakistan and other countries in South Asia.

What else is there to say about the safety of the whole region? Pakistan, however, has displayed extreme patience on the matter despite the Indian escalation and thus avoided a missile war.

Both India and Pakistan have potential capability in the missile technology with nuclear weapons, and each type of missile deployed by each is aimed at each other’s strategic targets.

Pakistan has the due reason to bounce back because the target of this “technical malfunction” eventually was an important military base in Pakistan.

The defence forces of Pakistan are well prepared and alarmed for any emergency situation equipped with early warning and quick response to respond any retaliation and undoubtedly in this case, India’s “technical failure” could have led to a full-scale war, even a nuclear war.

It is precisely because of Pakistan’s high degree of restraint that Pakistan just raised the matter on diplomatic forums and such extremely serious consequences have been effectively avoided.

The Indian missile was swimming in the air at the altitude of 4,000 feet and due to the excused “technical failure” by the Indian authorities it may have flown all over the sky endangering passenger flights in the air and civilian lives on the ground at any time.

This incident is a proof that India does not have the technical ability to master and control missiles, especially nuclear weapons.

These weapons of mass destruction are liable to be destroyed in a timely manner, and countries such as the United States, France and Russia should also consider immediately their advanced level defence deals with India that are technically beyond India’s grasp equipment.

Otherwise, India’s strategic weapons will seriously threaten the peace and tranquillity of the entire trans-Himalayan region.

Only a joint investigation can accurately establish the facts surrounding the misfire and affluence the Pakistanis authorities.

Pakistan Foreign Office has rightly stated that the grave nature of the incident raises several fundamental questions regarding security protocols and technical safeguards against accidental or unauthorised launch of missiles in a nuclearised environment adding that India must provide a clearer picture of the circumstances that led to the missile’s firing.

It is also not clear and need to be explained if the missile was handled by Indian armed forces or some rogue elements inside or outside its army.

The high-level court of inquiry from the Indian side is mere an attempt to sweep the problem under the carpet particularly when it was also “highly irresponsible” of New Delhi not to inform Islamabad immediately after the inadvertent launch of a missile.

All these misleading justifications must also be investigated to ascertain if this was an incident or something more intentional.

Military experts have several times warned in the past 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.

It is really very hard to endure such a hostile attempt from a rival nation like India as this miscalculated fire has deteriorated all the confidence building measures and aggrandized the already tense diplomatic ties between the two states.

Thus, the international community needs to have a very close look at this spectrum because the safety of South Asia cannot afford any technical failure of India in missile launching.

—The writer is expert on Indian Affairs.

(Courtesy Pakistan Observer)