On Wednesday, India said it destroyed a low-orbiting satellite in a missile test that proved the nation was among the world’s most advanced space powers.
In a rare address to the nation just weeks before a national election, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said India had joined the United States, Russia and China in accomplishing the feat.
A missile fired from a testing facility in Odisha, eastern India, downed the satellite at around 300km in “a difficult operation” that lasted about three minutes, Modi said.
“This is a proud moment for India,” he added, in his first televised national address since late 2016. “India has registered its name in the list of space superpowers. Until now, only three countries had achieved this feat.”
It comes a month after Indian and Pakistani fighter jets engaged in a dogfight over the disputed border in Kashmir — a serious military escalation between the nuclear-armed rivals.
An Indian jet was shot down and a pilot captured by Pakistan, which had launched retaliatory air raids after Indian planes bombed Pakistani territory for the first time in decades.
Modi said the anti-satellite missile test was peaceful, and not designed to create “an atmosphere of war”.
“I want to assure the world community that the new capability is not against anyone. This is to secure and defend … fast-growing India.”
The US and the former Soviet Union carried out their first successful anti-satellite missile tests in 1985 and China in 2007.
All are now said to be working on so-called Star Wars laser weapons to destroy satellites.
With satellites increasingly important because of their intelligence-gathering role — and major nations seeking to gain a foothold in space — the US in 2014 rejected a Russian-Chinese proposal for a treaty to ban weapons in space, saying it was “fundamentally flawed” because of the lack of weapons verification measures.
India has made giant strides in its space journey in recent years. It launched a record 104 satellites in a single mission in 2017 and has also built a reputation for low-cost space exploration and science missions. — AFP