September 23, 2022

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The Indian Air Force said the government had sacked three officers for accidentally firing a missile into Pakistan in March, an incident that the two nuclear-armed rivals handled calmly as there were no casualties.

Military experts have in the past warned of the risk of accidents or miscalculations by the neighbours, which have fought three wars and engaged in numerous smaller armed clashes, usually over the disputed territory of Kashmir.

The BrahMos missile – a nuclear-capable, land-attack cruise missile jointly developed by Russia and India – was fired on March 9, prompting Pakistan to seek answers from New Delhi on the safety mechanisms in place to prevent accidental launches.

The Indian military has fired three officers after a BrahMos missile was accidentally launched against Pakistan earlier this year. (AAP)

“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 air force said in a statement.

It said the government had dismissed the three officers with immediate effect on Tuesday.

According to the US-based Arms Control Association, the BrahMos missile’s range is between 300km and 500km, making it capable of hitting Pakistan’s capital Islamabad from a northern Indian launch pad.

Pakistan’s military at the time said it tracked the missile from its launch and during its more than three-minute-long flight inside Islamabad’s airspace.

Pakistani officials demanded an explanation from India, criticising the launch as a “flagrant violation” that violated the country’s airspace.

The Indian and Pakistan armed forces fought three wars since 1947 for control of Kashmir. (Supplied)

Two days after the launch, India’s defence ministry said the missile was fired by accident because of a “technical malfunction” during routine maintenance and called the incident “deeply regrettable.”

Nuclear-armed Pakistan and India have a history of bitter relations mainly over the disputed Himalayan region of Kashmir, which is divided between them and claimed by both in its entirety.

Since gaining independence from British rule in 1947, the countries have fought two of their three wars over Kashmir.

Relations between the countries have been especially strained since 2019, when Pakistan’s air force shot down an Indian warplane in the Pakistan-administered section of Kashmir and captured a pilot in response to an airstrike by Indian aircraft targeting militants in the northwestern town of Balakot inside Pakistan.

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