Under The Shadow Of BrahMos: India’s Vulnerable Strategic Command And Control Mechanisms? – OpEd

By and

In 1991, an agreement concerning the “Prevention of Airspace Violations” was duly signed between Pakistan and India, stipulating mutual notification regarding inadvertent airspace violations through a hotline between their respective high military commands. Article 1 of the aforementioned agreement articulates: 

Henceforth, both sides will take adequate measures to ensure, that air violations of each other’s airspace do not take place. However, if any inadvertent violation does take place, the incident will be promptly investigated and the Headquarters (HQ) of the other Air Force informed of the results without delay, through diplomatic channels.

Despite having such agreements signed between the two nuclear-armed hostile neighbours where the chances of miscalculations are higher due to the trust deficit, still India chooses to remain silent. It put into question India’s malign intentions behind the BrahMos episode. 

The incident occurred at 6:43 pm on March 9, 2022, when an Indian BrahMos Missile, known for its high speed, nuclear capability, and supersonic capabilities, breached Pakistan’s airspace and landed near Mian Channu at 6:50 pm. The cautious silence maintained by India subsequent to the firing underscores potential hidden motives. The Indian Air Force, in revealing the cause of the misfire incident, cited its potential impact on the relations between the two nuclear-armed neighbors as it could lead to nuclear escalation threatening the strategic stability of the region. However, despite being aware of this, India chose to maintain a cautious silence until Pakistan raised concerns about India’s hostile and aggressive actions. 

On March 11, Pakistan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs formally summoned the Indian Ambassador to register a solemn protest against what Pakistan perceived as a flagrant transgression of its territorial integrity and sovereignty. This protest was prompted by India’s assertion that an accidental fire was responsible for an incident that Pakistan deemed as a violation. Furthermore, the United States-based Arms Control Association highlighted that the BrahMos missile possesses a range of 300 to 500 kilometers, thereby encompassing the capability to target Islamabad. Such a circumstance harbored the potential to escalate into a precarious and highly undesirable situation endangering the peace and stability of South Asian region. 

For the first time, the Indian Air Force (IAF) has elaborated on the events that took place on March 9, 2022, revealing a critical oversight in its statement to the high court. According to the IAF, the combat team, fully cognizant that the missile’s combat connectors were linked to the junction box, did not take action to prevent the Mobile Autonomous Launcher Commander from initiating a hazardous move—the firing of a Combat Missile. This error led to a missile being launched into an adjacent country, posing a real threat to entities in the air or on the ground including possibility of nuclear escalation.  

According to investigation committee, the essence of this incident was identified as the failure of an Indian commander to disconnect combat connectors before activation. In a decisive move, India applied the “President’s Pleasure” clause to scapegoat three officers of Indian Air Force by terminating their service, for the portrayal of the military’s stringent stance on such infractions. However, the three accused filed case Delhi High Court against their conviction. Moreover, the approach of Indian government raises questions about the efficacy of attributing fault to specific individuals as a means to obscure systemic issues or deliberate actions. By targeting a few individuals, there’s a risk that India might simplify a complex situation, potentially ignoring wider systemic failures in missile operations and management or concealing intentional maneuvers.

This raises doubts about the reliability of the IAF’s account of the missile launch. The incident highlights a comprehensive failure within the frameworks meant to ensure missile operation safety. The central issue was the omission to detach combat connectors from the junction box, indicating serious oversights in both physical safety measures and electronic locking mechanisms. Indian government has to explain that why such an advanced missile does only depends upon one single connecter to be launched. Isn’t it indicates either upon the irresponsible command and control mechanism or the web of lies constructed by India for eyewash?

The role of physical safety devices, such as manual pins or switches, in preventing unauthorized missile launches is critical. Their lack of use suggests either a disregard for procedure or a conscious bypassing of safety protocols. Moreover, the possibility that electronic locks, which are supposed to require specific codes to arm the missile, could be bypassed or not correctly integrated with the missile’s control systems, presents a significant security flaw.

Strategically, this incident has significant implications. It highlights the precarious balance of military readiness and the imperative of rigorous safety protocols to prevent accidental escalations. In a region marked by delicate geo-political tensions, especially between Pakistan and India, such incidents can rapidly escalate into major confrontations, undermining efforts towards regional stability and peace. The revelation calls for an introspective look into military protocols and systems to ensure such lapses are addressed and prevented, reinforcing the need for robust mechanisms to safeguard against accidental or unauthorized use of lethal military technologies.

Furthermore, the handling of the missile incident showcased a discernible bias from Western entities, aligning conspicuously with India’s narrative. The strategic blunder committed by India was seemingly overlooked by the United States, ostensibly in consideration of broader geopolitical imperatives, particularly in relation to its dynamic with China. Contrastingly, in a parallel scenario occurring in November of the same year, when a missile landed in Poland near the Russia-Ukraine border, Poland hastily attributed blame to Russia without substantive evidence. This precipitated an emergency meeting of the Group of Seven (G7) to deliberate on the situation in Poland. Subsequent investigations, however, conclusively determined that the missile had been launched from within Ukrainian territory. This episode underscores the disparate treatment meted out to similar incidents based on geostrategic interests, revealing a disconcerting asymmetry in the international community’s response. The United States continued to overlook strategic blunders by India that infringed upon the territorial integrity of other states. 

Under the Modi regime, India is continuously involved in violating international laws, cross-border terrorism, and extra-judicial executions within and outside Indian Territory. However, when caught the Indian government blames so called “rouge elements,” within Indian institutions. Such lame excuse indicates upon the vulnerabilities of Indian command and control of critical and strategic assets, making India an irresponsible state actor. 

About the authors:

  • Syeda Tahreem Bukhari is a Research Officer at CISS AJK. She holds M Phil in Peace and Conflict Studies from National Defence University, Islamabad. She posts @Tehmii_Syed.
  • Nimra Javed is an Associate Research Officer at CISS AJK. She holds M Phil in Strategic Studies from National Defence University, Islamabad. She posts @NimrahJaved_

Syeda Tahreem Bukhari

Syeda Tahreem Bukhari is a Research Officer at the Centre for International Strategic Studies-AJK. A NESA Alumni and an MPhil Scholar in Peace and Conflict Studies from National Defence University, Islamabad.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *