The Hindu Editorial Vocabulary– Mar 14, 2022; Day 253
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Difficult Word/ PhraseContextual Sense
Malfunction A failure to function normally
Probe An inquiry into unfamiliar or questionable activities
Chargé d’affaires a subordinate diplomat who substitutes for an absent ambassador or minister
Loophole a means of escape; esp., a means of evading or escaping an obligation, enforcement of a law or contract, etc.
Fixation An unhealthy and compulsive preoccupation with something or someone
Fray to make or become weakened 
Hypersonic Moving at more than five times the speed of sound
Echo Repetition 
Dogfight An aerial engagement between fighter planes
Nevertheless in spite of that
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Unguided missile: On a malfunction (A failure to function normally) and Pakistan’s probe demand

Pakistan demand for a joint probe (An inquiry into unfamiliar or questionable activities) is unwarranted, but India must get to the truth of the missile malfunction

The accidental firing of a missile by India into Pakistan could have led to serious, unintended escalation of tensions between the two nuclear-armed countries, but, fortunately, that did not happen. The Government of India has said the incident, on March 9, happened in the course of routine maintenance, due to a technical malfunction. India has ordered a high-level Court of Inquiry. The Chargé d’affaires (a subordinate diplomat who substitutes for an absent ambassador or minister) of the Indian High Commission in Islamabad was called twice by Pakistan to convey its concerns. Pakistan has alleged that the incident “indicates many loopholes (a means of escape; esp., a means of evading or escaping an obligation, enforcement of a law or contract, etc.) and technical lapses of a serious nature in Indian handling of strategic weapons”. Islamabad, which termed the inquiry as ordered by India as insufficient, demanded a joint probe. It has also sought the involvement of the international community to promote “strategic stability in the region”. As it moved closer to India in recent years, the U.S. has suspended its fixation (An unhealthy and compulsive preoccupation with something or someone) with the conflict between the two neighbours, but the fear of nuclear escalation in the region is very deep in Washington’s strategic thinking. India’s global image of being a responsible nuclear power has been built over decades of restrained words and thoughtful action. The security of its nuclear command and technical capabilities has never been in doubt. This incident frays (to make or become weakened) that reputation and measures must be taken to restore the confidence of the international community in India.

There has been no official word from India on which missile was involved, which Pakistan has said landed 124 km inside its territory. The description by Pakistan — that the missile was travelling at three times the speed of sound, at 40,000 feet, and is a surface-to-surface missile — has led to speculation that the accident involves the BrahMos supersonic cruise missile which is now in the inventory of India’s three Services. India became a member of the Missile Technology Control Regime in 2016, an acceptance by major powers of India’s status as a reliable defence partner that is capable of handling its strengths and contributing to global security. India is developing more missile systems, including a hypersonic (Moving at more than five times the speed of sound) variant. The handling and the launch of any such missiles are highly regulated with checks and balances to avoid accidents. This accident also has echoes (A close parallel of a feeling) of another incident in February 2019. A day after the Balakot air strike, as fighter jets of India and Pakistan were engaged in a dogfight (An aerial engagement between fighter planes) near the LoC, an Mi-17V5 crashed in Budgam shortly after take-off from Srinagar killing its personnel onboard and a civilian on the ground. The Court of Inquiry confirmed that it was shot by an Israeli-origin Spyder surface-to-air missile system of the IAF. India must leave no scope for any doubts about its capacity to handle nuclear and other military assets. That objective can be achieved without a joint probe with Pakistan or any international involvement, but the objective must be achieved nevertheless (in spite of that).

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