An Indonesian jet carrying hundreds of passengers was forced to turn around over Indian airspace after a nuclear-capable ballistic missile streaked across the sky, the Foreign Ministry said Friday.
Indonesia has demanded an explanation from New Delhi, which insisted that aviation authorities were informed about Thursday’s test launch well in advance.
The Garuda Indonesia Boeing 747 was en route from 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.”
The plane carrying 413 people immediately returned to Jakarta and took off again for Jeddah seven hours later, he said. Another Garuda plane bound for Riyadh also had to delay its departure Thursday because of the test.
Indonesia — which is struggling to defend its transportation safety record after a series of deadly air, train and ferry accidents — said it would summon a diplomat from India to seek clarification.
“We have to make sure this does not happen in the future,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Kristiarto Legowo told reporters Friday.
India said Indonesia and other air traffic controllers across the region had been properly informed about its plans to test-fire its longest-range missile, the Agni III.
“A notice was sent a week before the test,” said government spokesman Navtej Sarna. Aviation officials were told “about the launch window date, danger time, zone and height,” he said, and had been advised to “issue notice to aviators and mariners.”
The Agni III missile, which is designed to reach 1,900 miles, was launched from Wheeler Island off the eastern state of Orissa and is said to be capable of carrying up to a 300-kiloton nuclear warhead.