India fires 3 military officers for Pakistan missile misfire

FILE - Supersonic BrahMos missiles are seen at the parliament house premises for an upcoming exhibition in New Delhi, India, on Aug. 1, 2016. (AP Photo/Manish Swarup, File)

NEW DELHI (AP) — India’s air force said Tuesday that three military officers have been dismissed for accidentally firing an unarmed missile into rival Pakistan in March.

A formal inquiry found that “deviation from the Standard Operating Procedures by three officers” led to the BrahMos cruise missile being fired into Pakistan, the air force said in a statement.

The missile launched March 9 landed in Pakistan’s eastern Punjab province and damaged a wall in a residential area. No deaths or injuries were reported.

Pakistan’s military at the time said it tracked the missile from its launch and during its more than three-minute-long flight inside Islamabad’s airspace. Pakistani officials demanded an explanation from India, criticizing the launch as a “flagrant violation” that violated the country’s airspace.

Two days after the launch, India’s defense ministry said the missile was fired by accident because of a “technical malfunction” during routine maintenance and called the incident “deeply regrettable.”

Nuclear-armed Pakistan and India have a history of bitter relations mainly over the disputed Himalayan region of Kashmir, which is divided between them and claimed by both in its entirety. Since gaining independence from British rule in 1947, the countries have fought two of their three wars over Kashmir.

Relations between the countries have been especially strained since 2019, when Pakistan’s air force shot down an Indian warplane in the Pakistan-administered section of Kashmir and captured a pilot in response to an airstrike by Indian aircraft targeting militants in the northwestern town of Balakot inside Pakistan.

India at the time said its airstrikes targeted Pakistan-based militants responsible for a suicide bombing that killed 40 Indian troops in Indian-controlled Kashmir. Pakistan later released the pilot.