India yesterday said that it shot down a low-orbiting satellite in a missile test, proving that it is among the world’s most advanced space superpowers.
In a rare address to the nation just weeks out from a national election, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi said that India has joined the US, Russia and China in accomplishing the feat.
A missile fired from a testing facility in Odisha, eastern India, downed the live satellite in orbit at about 300km in a “difficult operation” that lasted about three minutes, Modi said.
“This is a proud moment for India,” he said 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,” Modi said.
It comes a month after Indian and Pakistani fighter jets engaged in a dogfight over a disputed border in Kashmir in 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 airraids after Indian warplanes bombed Pakistani territory for the first time in decades.
Modi said that the missile test against the satellite 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 the fast-growing India,” he said.
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 arms to destroy satellites.
With satellites becoming increasingly crucial because of intelligence gathering — 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 that the treaty was “fundamentally flawed” because of the lack of weapons verification measures
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