Pakistan seeks joint probe into accidental missile launch from India
Islamabad/New Delhi, Mar 15 (EFE).- Pakistan on Tuesday demanded a joint probe into an accidental missile launch from India last week after New Delhi said it was investigating the “deeply regrettable” incident that potentially carried dangerous military consequences for the two nuclear powers.
Indian Defense Minister Rajnath Singh assured that the country’s missile system “is highly safe and reliable,” and the government “gave the top priority to the security of our weapons system.”
Speaking to the Indian parliament, Singh said the government had ordered a “high-level investigation” into the Mar.9 incident when an unarmed supersonic missile from India entered Pakistan’s airspace and fell in the eastern Punjab region.
The minister said the government had taken the incident “very seriously,” noting that a full probe would determine what caused the incident.
“If we find any lapses, we will rectify that quickly. We take a timely review of our safety protocols.”
The Indian defense ministry earlier said a “technical malfunction” triggered the “accidental firing” of the missile during a routine maintenance activity.
“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,” a ministry statement said.
But Pakistan refused to buy the Indian statements on the accidental missile launch.
“The reply of the defense minister of India…is not sufficient and is incomplete. Pakistan is not satisfied with that. I reject that and demand a joint probe,” Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi told reporters in Islamabad.
The Pakistan minister said a unilateral investigation by India was not sufficient.
“The missile was capable of carrying nuclear warheads and saying that it was an incident is not sufficient.”
Qureshi said he spoke to the United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres last night and apprised him about the concern of Pakistan regarding the “very serious issue.”
“It is a kind of international issue. The missile could have led to an accidental war between (the) two atomic weapons states.”
Last week a day after the incident, Pakistan Air Vice Marshal Tariq Zia said the military spotted the surface-to-surface missile at an altitude of 40,000 feet (12,200 meters).
He said the missile traveled 124 km into Pakistan airspace and remained over Pakistan’s territory for three minutes and 24 seconds.
Islamabad summoned the Indian envoy to register a protest against the “unprovoked violation” of the airspace.
A Pakistan foreign office statement said it was an “irresponsible incident,” reflecting India’s “disregard for air safety and callousness towards regional peace and stability.”
The two atomic power neighbors have maintained tense relations for decades, mainly due to their dispute over the Muslim-majority Kashmir region.
They have fought two wars and clashed in several minor conflicts over the idyllic Himalayan region. EFE