India in its official response has stated that the missile which went into Pakistan on March 9, was due to ‘accidental firing’ caused by a ‘technical malfunction’ in the ‘course of routine maintenance’. Though it did not offer the crucial information whether Pakistan was informed, but the delay in acknowledging it after Pakistan’s revelation has raised questions on India’s tackling of the unprecedented incident.
The Western media which reported Pakistan’s and Indian version of the development, merely raised the hard hitting questions regarding India’s nuclear program. In western media one of the headlines by The Daily Beast was “India Says ‘Oops’ After Missile Accidentally Launches into Pakistan”. But what the response would have been, if, hypothetically, a Pakistani missile had been fired into India by accident. The television screens and the top headlines of the media all over the world would have been that “Pakistan’s nuclear arsenals went into wrong hands”. But the latest development is bound to raise concerns about the safety of India’s weapons systems, and regarding Modi government’s credibility on the subject.
India’s record of Uranium theft have been reported regularly and now this incident must alarm the global community that such incident – even by accident – can get the region into a nuclear war. But thanks to Pakistan’s mature and articulated response that it did not retaliate and India was lucky, possibly, for the first and last time. Sushant Singh, a senior fellow at New Delhi-based Center for Policy Research, told The New York Times, “We (India) have been lucky this time. We should not make the mistake to think we will be lucky every time”.
While Pakistan has asked the global community for taking notice of the incident, it has demanded India for a joint probe to “establish the facts”. Rajnath Singh, India’s Defense Minister, has told the lawmakers that country’s missile system was “very reliable and safe” and any short comings will be fixed immediately but stopped short of detailing the circumstances of the development. Though India claims that it is a responsible nuclear power but this incident has questioned the country’s reputation and measures and dented the confidence of international community in India.
Military experts have warned regarding such untoward incidents and both nuclear states do not have robust risk-reduction protocols or mechanisms to deal with such mishaps but now it is obvious that both should be “talking about risk mitigation”. Indian Newspapers, known for independent editorial policy, including The Hindu and The Wire have urged India for investigations and coming clean over the incident. As the West has so far not taken notice, and United States preferred the Indian version of the incident, the development has provided Pakistan an opportunity to admonish India when it comes to the debate of New Delhi’s ability to handle such sensitive weapons and materials effectively.
India, hereafter, should make arrangements to leave no scope of doubts about its capacity of handling nuclear and other military assets and to reaffirm its nuclear credentials, must hold a joint probe with Pakistan, else, the global community should step in to make sure that India is capable of being a nuclear state and its arsenals are in safe hands.
*Qudrat Ullah is a freelancer and media activist. He writes on political developments and security issues with special focus on South Asia and the region. He can be reached at [email protected]