New Delhi—India has just joined an elite club with only four participants. Aside from Russia, China, and the United States, India is the only country with the capability to shoot down a satellite in low Earth orbit using a missile.
This was announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on March 27. He said that the Shakti mission took three minutes to blow up its target in orbit, 186 miles away from Earth, calling it a “proud moment” for his country. The Prime Minister also said that this capability to shoot down satellites had been developed as part of the country’s defense strategy.
“Shakti” means power in Hindi.
The Prime Minister said in a televised address, “Today, India has established itself as a space power. Until now, only the US, Russia and China could claim the title. India is the fourth country to achieve this feat.
Just a few minutes ago, our scientists shot down a live satellite on the LEO (Low Earth Orbit). They achieved it in just three minutes.
Today’s anti-satellite missiles will give a new strength to the country both in terms of security and development.”
He also claimed that the technology for this capability was developed “indigenously.”
The Prime Minister added, “We are not just capable to defend on land, water, and air, but now also in space.”
Some experts actually called the test overdue. The Washington Post reports that an associate fellow at the New Delhi think tank Observer Research Foundation, Kartik Bommakanti, said “India had the latent capacity years ago, and Modi is reaping the benefit of that. It is crucial from the national security aspect and the ability to wage war in the future.”
India was involved in a recent skirmish with Pakistan that threw into question its ability to defend itself. In an aerial dogfight, a Pakistani aircraft succeeded in shooting down an Indian jet and then detained its pilot.
This caused the questioning and criticism regarding the age of the aircraft in India’s armed forces. A report in Parliament one year ago disclosed that nearly 70 percent of the army’s equipment had been classified as “vintage.”
The Foreign Ministry in Pakistan responded to Prime Minister Modi’s announcement with a statement, saying, “Every nation has the responsibility to avoid actions which can lead to the militarization of this arena. Boasting of such capabilities is reminiscent of Don Quixote’s tilting against windmills.”
India’s desire to become a leader in space has been evident, with a budget allotment of $1.43 billion in the government for the country’s first manned mission to space, which they are aiming to see realized by 2022.
In 2014, India sent a satellite to Mars, again, the fourth country in the world to do so.
After the test, the President of India, Shri Ram Nath Kovind, tweeted, “#MissionShakti represents a watershed moment for India. Testing of the Anti-Satellite Missile demonstrates India’s scientific prowess and commitment to harnessing space technology for the security and empowerment of our people. My congratulations to all concerned #PresidentKovind.”
The Prime Minister later tweeted, “In the journey of every nation there are moments that bring utmost pride and have a historic impact on generations to come. One such moment is today. India has successfully tested the Anti-Satellite (ASAT) Missile. Congratulations to everyone on the success of #MissionShakti.”
However, the country’s Election Commission had an announcement of their own, after the Prime Minister’s televised address. The commission said it will investigate as to whether Mr Modi’s speech violated any of its guidelines since opposition parties are accusing him of making moves to secure votes for the country’s upcoming elections.
Rules from the commission state that political parties that show “achievements” in the press should be “avoided,” and it is a possibility that Mr Modi’s announcement may have violated this.
But the BBC reports Former Chief Election Commissioner TS Krishnamurthy as having said, “As he has addressed the nation in his capacity as Prime Minister, it doesn’t seem to be a violation.”
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