India on Friday said it had accidentally fired a missile into Pakistan on Wednesday, hours after Islamabad lodged a diplomatic protest over a “supersonic flying object” breaching its airspace and hitting a civilian area.
India’s defence ministry said that during routine maintenance on March 9, a “technical malfunction led to the accidental firing of a missile”, without further elaborating on the nature of the projectile.
It said that the incident was “deeply regrettable” and the Indian government was investigating the incident at the highest level.
“It is learnt that the missile landed in an area of Pakistan. 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,” the statement said.
New Delhi’s response came hours after Islamabad demanded an explanation from India and summoned its top diplomat in Pakistan to lodge a protest “over the unprovoked violation of its airspace”.
No casualties were reported but Pakistan's military claimed that the projectile caused damage to civilian property.
Pakistan’s military spokesperson late on Thursday had claimed that an unarmed Indian supersonic missile, that took off from the northern Indian city of Sirsa, hit a civilian area in Mian Chunnu city in Punjab province.
Maj Gen Babar Iftikhar, director general, Inter-Services Public Relations, had claimed that the flying object was cruising at an altitude of about 12,000 metres and hit a private boundary wall 124 kilometres inside Pakistan territory.
"The flight path of this object endangered many national and international passenger flights both in Indian and Pakistani airspace as well as human life and property on the ground," he said.
Islamabad on Friday demanded a “thorough and transparent investigation” into the incident and warned New Delhi of “unpleasant consequences of such negligence” in the future.
It accused India of showing “disregard for air safety and callousness towards regional peace and stability”. The relationship between the two nuclear-armed Asian neighbours is a hostile one, and the two countries have fought three wars since gaining independence from Britain in 1947.
The two countries were on the brink of another war in February 2019 after India launched air strikes in Pakistan over claims that a militant group backed by Islamabad was behind a suicide bombing that killed 41 Indian paramilitary soldiers in the disputed Kashmir region.
The air strikes led to counter-attacks by Pakistan fighter planes and a dogfight that ended with the downing of an Indian fighter jet and brief detention of its pilot.