Rejecting suggestions that the Agni III missile launch could have endangered commercial aircraft, the Indian government on Friday said civil aviation authorities had notified concerned Air Traffic Controllers (ATCs) across the region, including in Jakarta, about the proposed missile launch. Indonesian authorities have reacted angrily to the launch, claiming a scheduled flight by their national carrier Garuda was endangered by Thursday’s missile launch.
Claiming that "India's missile programme follows requisite safety measures, " the spokesman of the Ministry of External Affairs Navtej Sarna said, “a notice was sent a week ago by civil aviation authorities to Jakarta and other ATCs in the region giving window dates, danger times, zone and height.”
"The ATCs were requested to take action to issue NOTAM (Notice to Aviators and Mariners) in accordance with relevant ICAO (International Civil Aviation Organisation) provisions," Sarna said.
When asked if Indonesian authorities had formally complained to India about the near miss that forced an Indonesian passenger airline to return to Jakarta, Sarna said there had been no complaints from the Indonesian authorities. He was reacting to news reports, he said.
However, the Indian ambassador to Indonesia, Navrekha Sharma, confirmed to HT that the Indonesian government had indeed lodged a complaint with the Indian embassy.
“We will be surprised if any such thing has happened as these are routine procedures,” she said, “However, we will take appropriate action.”
Officials said it was probably the first time such allegations were made, as it was the first time Agni III had been successfuly test-launched. The previous test launch, in July last year, failed.
Contrary to official claims that flights were not endangered and adequate notice was given prior to the launch of the Agni-III for air passenger traffic not to be affected, reports from Chennai said an Air India Express flight from Singapore to Chennai via Tiruchirapalli also had to return to Singapore because the Agni-III missile was being tested.
The Singapore-Tiruchirappalli-Chennai flight finally landed at Tiruchirapalli at 6.30 pm on Thursday, over seven hours behind schedule, officials said.
The flight, scheduled to land at 11.05 am, had left Singapore when defence officials advised the pilot to take a diversion for safety reasons in view of the Agni test.
According to agency reports from Jakarta, the Indonesian Foreign Ministry today demanded an explanation from New Delhi.
"We will summon India's diplomat here soon to seek official clarification," ministry spokesman Kristiarto Legowo said following India's test-launch yesterday. "We have to make sure this does not happen in the future."
The Garuda Indonesia plane was carrying 413 Muslim pilgrims from the capital, Jakarta, to Saudi Arabia, when the Indian control tower told pilots the missile had been launched, said Ari Sapari, the national carrier's director.
"We were not given any advance warning about this missile test," he said. "This was obviously confusing and worrying. It also caused us to disrupt an international flight schedule - a great financial expense."