Confidential

India’s Accidental Missile Strike Into Pakistan 

Summary:

On March 9th, 2022, an Indian BrahMos missile was launched and landed in Mian Channu, Pakistan, over 120 kilometres away. It was not until 24 hours later that Pakistan officially confirmed an object in their airspace. (Source) The Indian government released a statement that a missile was fired accidentally during a maintenance checkup. The Indian government expressed the actions as “deeply regrettable” in their own broadcasted statement. (Source

Key Judgment 1: It is highly unlikely that the two nations will move closer to a conflict directly from this action in the next 12 months. 

  • Both governments have so far acted with extreme maturity and prudence towards each other, which is rare for adversarial nations. The geopolitical climate of the world is in a precarious state with the Western world rallying against Russia. 

  • However, in a 1991 agreement, India and Pakistan both signed that they must warn each other of air space violations. Pakistan has been quick to criticize India for not doing so until after the Pakistani government began publishing the incident. (Source

  • Both nations are most likely not posturing for an escalation to conflict. Which could be possibly in part because how the world has reacted to the Russian invasion of Ukraine. 
India's Accidental Missile Strike
Image of the missile’s impact site near Mian Channu, Pakistan. (source

Key Judgment 2: It is likely that this incident will disrupt India’s plan to sell their missile systems abroad in the coming future. 

  • Many sources point to the missile as the BrahMos (PJ-10) that was recently developed in conjunction with Russia. A medium range, supersonic cruise missile, the BrahMos has been India’s recent venture into selling domestic made weapons systems. However, the BrahMos’ failure fits the same narrative as the Russian-ventured  Sukhoi-30 MKI.  

  • The Philippines (source) and Egypt (source) are looking to purchase missiles, but this recent “accident” may prove fatal to the deals. The lack or miscalculation of safety parameters may discourage potential buyers and push them into other markets. 

  • The Indian government has offered an in-depth investigation into the event with hopes of finding the cause. This move, if done correctly and fluently can possibly save face with potential buyers of the missile system. 

Key Judgment 3: It is realistically probable that this was a covert test of Pakistan’s surface to air and missile defense systems. 

  • Being adversaries and sharing a contested border, covert actions done to probe military readiness on both sides may be seen. Some within the Pakistani military suspected the launch was not a declaration of war, but some further aim from India. (Source) This may also explain why Pakistani officials are criticizing India for not using the line to warn Pakistan. (Source)

  • The strike may have effectively proved that Pakistan’s air defense coverage is lacking. For one, the Indian’s have affirmed the launch from Ambala, a garrison town, whereas Pakistan claims it was from Sirsa. Also, the two disagree about the trajectories and flight paths of the missile, with Pakistan demanding answers. (Source)

  • There are some factors to consider around the Indian armed forces and their track record around accidents. A helicopter accident that led to the death of India’s first Chief of Defense Staff, General Bipin Rawat, and several other officers in 2021 and the friendly shooting down of an Indian helicopter by Indian air defenses in Srinagar during the Balakot crisis in 2019 are a few recent incidents of note.

Author

Wes Martin

Wesley is an alumni of The Fund for American Studies and Ronald Reagan Institute in Washington, DC. He is currently in his senior year of his undergraduate degree at Southern New Hampshire University studying Law & Politics.

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