NEW DELHI, March 27 - India shot down one of its satellites in space on Wednesday with an anti-satellite missile to demonstrate this complex capability, Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced, making it only the fourth country to have used such a weapon. Declaring India has established itself as a global space power after the success of the operation �Mission Shakti�, Modi said the missile hit a live satellite flying in a Low Earth Orbit after it traversed a distance of almost 300 km from earth within three minutes of its launch.
Modi said the space mission in which scientists including from the state-owned Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) were involved gave the country a �new strength� and was an effort to secure a �fast growing India�. �A strong India can be a guarantor of peace in the region and beyond. Our strategic objective is to preserve peace, not prepare for war.�
The announcement was made by the Prime Minister in a broadcast to the nation on television, radio and social media shortly before which he advertised his address on Twitter, calling it an �important message�.
Modi�s tweet set the social media abuzz for about half an hour triggering speculation on whether the address would be about Emergency or bringing back underworld don Dawood Ibrahim or killing terror outfit Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) chief Masood Azhar or yet another surgical strike by the armed forces.
�A short while ago, India�s scientists have successfully hit a target in space with an Anti-satellite or ASAT missile. The target was a live satellite which was flying in a Low Earth Orbit. The missile travelled a distance of almost 300 km from earth and hit the target within three minutes of its launch,� Modi said shortly after noon in his address which he said is for a �very special purpose�. The address comes a fortnight before the start of the multi-phase Lok Sabha polls.
As Modi�s announcement set off a political slugfest, DRDO Chairman G Satheesh Reddy said the anti-satellite missile test is a reflection of the country�s growing capability to develop critical technology and that it will act as a �good deterrence�,
Reddy said the clearance for the project was given over two years ago.
�It is a great achievement for India,� he told PTI.
Experts and former scientists said though India had the capability by 2012 to carry out a similar test, the political leadership at that time did not give a clearance to it.
According to former DRDO chief Vijay Saraswat, India had the capability to carry out the test in 2012-13 but there was no political clearance.
Former ISRO chairman G Madhavan Nair also said India had the anti-satellite missile capability over a decade ago but there was no political will at the time to demonstrate it. The Congress-led UPA was in power from 2004 to 2014.
The BJP targeted the previous UPA government for not demonstrating the anti-satellite missile capability when it was in power while Opposition leaders mocked the Prime Minister over his address to the nation.
The Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) came out with a 10-point explainer to say the anti-satellite missile test was carried out to verify India�s capability to safeguard space assets and that it was not directed against any country. � PTI