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Mainstream, VOL LX No 13, New Delhi, March 19, 2022

Letter to the readers, Mainstream, March 19, 2022

Friday 18 March 2022

Letter to the Readers, Mainstream, March 19, 2022

The accidental launch of a BrahMos cruise missile belonging to the Indian Air Force (IAF) that landed some 124 kms deep inside Pakistan on March 9, 2022, was a serious and hair-raising event. This dramatic incident came to public knowledge when the Pakistani military held a press conference 24 hours later and the Indian Ministry of Defense responded by expressing regret at the incident saying that “in the course of routine maintenance, a technical malfunction led to the accidental firing of a missile”. It is a matter to great relief on two counts that (i) the IAF missile was not armed and did not cause serious damage or loss of life in Pakistan (ii) the Pakistani Armed forces showed restraint and did not instantly retaliate. The most obvious question that must be raised here is as to why the Indian authorities chose not or could not immediately inform their counterparts in Pakistan; The two militaries are supposed to some high level contact to diffuse crisis. It was the talks between Director Generals of Military Operations (DGMO’s) of India and Pakistan that led to February 25, 2021 agreement [1] to continue the 2003 ceasefire at a time when bilateral relations remain at an all-time low. We hope the Indian military officials will seriously investigate this grave incident and take corrective action. It is also time that the two nuclear armed countries review the current safety mechanisms and risk reduction protocols to ensure sharing of immediate information between themselves to avoid any mis-steps in wake of a crisis in future. Numerous defence experts, but also peace activists have already in the past pointed out that the reaction time in the event of missile launches between India and Pakistan is only a few minutes which makes it vital to have safe response practices built into the training protocols to pre-empt risk of accidents or miscalculations.

Tribute:

Mina Swaminathan, the socially committed educationist and scholar with a focus on early childhood passed away on March 14, 2022. She had been chairperson of the Central Advisory Board of Education committee to study the development of the pre-school child (1970) which recommended the creation of the Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) programme in India. She was also a co-founder of Centre for Women’s Development Studies in Delhi. Some of her valuable public writings are available in EPW. She was also the life partner of M.S. Swaminathan, the top agricultural scientist associated with India’s Green revolution.

We pay homage to Mina Swaminathan.

March 19, 2022 – HK


[1Joint Statement, Ministry of Defence, Press Information Bureau, February 25, 2021 https://pib.gov.in/PressReleasePage.aspx?PRID=1700682

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