Pakistan’s military on Thursday said an unidentified high-altitude supersonic object originating in India had crashed in Pakistani territory, in an incident endangering civilian passenger flights, and New Delhi should provide an explanation.
Islamabad’s military spokesman, Major-General Babar Iftikhar, said the armed forces were not sure of the nature of the object, which crashed near the eastern Pakistani city of Mian Channu and originated from the Indian city of Sirsa, in Haryana.
“On 9 March a high speed flying object was picked up inside Indian territory by the air defence operations centre of the Pakistan air force,” Iftikhar said in a press conference on Thursday night.
“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 of ground.”
A Pakistan air force official at the press conference said the object was being analysed forensically and initial studies suggested it was a surface-to-surface supersonic missile, but was unarmed.
He said it travelled at an altitude of 40,000 feet, at Mach 3, and flew 124 km (77 miles) in Pakistani airspace before crashing.
Babar said the military would not jump to conclusions until they received an explanation from India, but said that Pakistan strongly protests against this “flagrant violation” of its airspace.
A statement from the Indian Government’s Defence Wing confirmed: “A technical malfunction led to the accidental firing of a missile.
“The Government of India has taken a serious view and ordered a high-level Court of Enquiry. 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 two nuclear-armed neighbours have fought three wars and have engaged in numerous military clashes, most recently in 2019 which saw the air forces of the two countries engage in combat.
- Reuters, with additional editing by George Russell