Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi on Tuesday rejected as “incomplete and insufficient” the response by India’s Defence Minister Rajnath Singh in parliament about the “accidental firing” of a missile, and once again demanded a joint probe into the incident.
Addressing a press conference here, Qureshi talked in detail about India’s accidental missile launch of March 9 as well as the 48th Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) Council of Foreign Ministers being hosted by Pakistan on March 22-23.
“What the Indian defence minister had said in the Lok Sabha is incomplete and insufficient. It is not enough to satisfy Pakistan. I reject that and demand a joint probe,” he said, reiterating Islamabad’s demand made last week.
“This was a highly irresponsible act and the answer given is equally irresponsible,” Qureshi said in the first Pakistani reaction to Singh’s detailed statement in Parliament.
Pakistan’s National Security Advisor Dr Moeed Yusuf also joined Qureshi in demanding a joint investigation.
In a series of tweets after Singh’s statement in parliament, Yusuf said that the Indian defence minister’s explanation was not acceptable.
In New Delhi, Defence Minister Singh asserted that India’s missile system was very reliable and the safety procedures are of the highest order and described the recent accidental missile release as “regrettable”. He said a review of standard operations and maintenance was being conducted and any shortcomings if found, will be immediately rectified.
Making a statement in Rajya Sabha and Lok Sabha on the inadvertent release of a missile during an inspection on March 9, Singh said the government has taken serious note of the incident, and a formal high-level inquiry has been ordered which will determine the exact cause of the incident.
“During routine maintenance and inspection, a missile was accidentally released at around 7 pm. It was later learnt that the missile had landed inside the territory of Pakistan. While this incident is regretted, we are relieved that nobody was hurt due to the accident,” Singh said.
The defence minister also said Indian armed forces are well-trained and disciplined and are well experienced in handling such systems.
But Pakistan’s NSA Yusuf said India’s “simplistic explanation” was not acceptable to Islamabad.
“India has again claimed that the launch of its missile into Pakistan on 9th March was an accident during routine maintenance. This simplistic explanation without evidence is insufficient and should be unacceptable to the world,” he said.
“Only a transparent joint probe can address the many unanswered questions about this so-called mistake,” he said.
He accused India of continued demonstration of lack of adequate safety and security protocols of its high-end weapons systems.
“Their indifferent and dismissive approach after the incident is even more worrisome,” he said.
He reminded India as well as the world that “this was a highly sophisticated supersonic missile which could have caused loss of life in Pakistan and resulted in escalation between two nuclear-armed countries.” Yusuf said that Pakistan has once again acted responsibly to avoid any escalation.
In his comments, Qureshi lamented that the international community had failed to realise the severity of the Indian missile launch as it was capable of carrying the nuclear warhead and could have resulted in a nuclear conflagration.
“One-sided investigation is not enough; its impact could be far beyond the region because the missile was capable of carrying a warhead. It had this potential (of carrying a warhead) and to say that it was an accident, it is not enough,” he said.
He warned that the missile could have resulted in a reaction, amidst the chill in bilateral relations between Islamabad and New Delhi over the Kashmir issue.
“There could be an accidental reaction to that accidental launch if our air force had not picked it up well inside India. Do people realise the implication and consequences of that? That is very serious,” he said.
He said that the US State Department spokesperson at a press conference while realising the importance of the issue skirted the question when asked about it and did not take a clear position.
“Do they realise whom I am addressing (US and rest of the world), that this missile could result in a war between two atomic states? I am not trying to be dramatic about it but it is a realistic assessment,” he said.