Modi declares India a ‘space power’ after satellite shot down

India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi made the announcement on TV. (AFP)
Updated 28 March 2019

Modi declares India a ‘space power’ after satellite shot down

  • “India today registered its name as a space power,” Modi said
  • “Mission Shakti,” the test of the indigenously built ASAT missile was carried out by the Defense Research Development Organization

NEW DELHI: Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi declared his country a “space power” after it shot down a satellite in space on Wednesday with an anti-satellite (ASAT) missile.

Modi made the announcement in a specially televised address to the nation, calling it a “phenomenal accomplishment” in India’s space program. “India today registered its name as a space power,” he said.

“This is a big moment for India, something all of us should be proud of. We are not just capable of defending ourselves on land, water and air, but also in space.”

Named “Mission Shakti,” the test of the indigenously built ASAT missile was carried out by the Defense Research Development Organization (DRDO).

In a statement released after Modi’s address, the External Affairs Ministry said: “India has tested and successfully demonstrated its capability to interdict and intercept a satellite in outer space based on complete indigenous technology.”

It added: “The test reflects the intention of the government to enhance India’s national security.”

Denying any intention to enter into an arms race, the ministry said: “Space must be used only for peaceful purposes, and we are against the weaponization of outer space.” It added: “The test is not directed against any country.”

The ministry said: “At the same time, the government is committed to ensuring the country’s national security interests, and is alert to threats from emerging technologies. The capability achieved through the anti-satellite missile test provides credible deterrence against threats to our growing space-based assets from long-range missiles, and proliferation in the types and numbers of missiles.”

China’s Foreign Ministry said it “hopes that each country will uphold peace and tranquility in outer space.”

India’s opposition termed Modi’s address to the nation as theatrics and an attempt to divert attention away from real issues in the middle of an election campaign.

Rahul Gandhi, president of the Congress Party, tweeted: “Well done DRDO, extremely proud of your work. I would also like to wish the PM a very happy World Theatre Day.”

Prabhat Kumar of the Communist Party of India (Marxists-Leninist) said the announcement “raises disturbing questions about the Modi government’s handling of strategic issues.”

He added that the DRDO had announced its ASAT capability seven years ago, questioning “why the Modi government chose this moment for this demonstration and this sensational manner to announce it.”

Kumar said the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) “is worried about the growing prospect of its impending defeat, and wanted to use the DRDO’s defense capability to cloud the poll environment with the threat of a war.”

New Delhi-based political analyst Nilanjan Mukhopadhyay told Arab News: “The test shows Modi’s lack of confidence ahead of the election.”

The prime minister “is projecting himself as if he has the monopoly rights over protecting the nation,” Mukhopadhyay said.

“Modi is departing from the consistent policy of the Indian government not to militarize outer space,” he added.

“The BJP wants to play only a nationalistic narrative because it knows that if it allows economic issues to dominate the narrative, it will come a cropper (fail),” said the analyst, who has written a biography of Modi.

“I feel this is the way to counter the Congress Party’s poll promises of providing a basic minimum income to 50 million people.”

However, Bharat Karnad of the Centre for Policy Research, a New Delhi-based think tank, told Arab News: “This is a big achievement. It will deny the enemy, basically China, tactical information on the battlefield. The Chinese wouldn’t be able to use satellites in a war against India.”

He added: “Like a good politician, Modi is using anything he can in the election season to win the election.”


India says it will ‘peacefully resolve’ border stand-off with China

Updated 28 May 2020

India says it will ‘peacefully resolve’ border stand-off with China

  • Development follows US President’s mediation in the dispute
  • Stand-off began in the first week of May when a scuffle broke out near Pangong Tso Lake

NEW DELHI: After weeks of a border stand-off between Indian and Chinese soldiers in the Himalayan region of Ladakh, New Delhi on Thursday announced it would resolve the matter diplomatically.

“India is engaged with China to peacefully resolve the matter. At the same time we remain firm in our resolve to ensuring India’s sovereignty and national security,” the Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

The development follows US President Donald Trump’s mediation in the dispute. In a Twitter post on Wednesday, Trump said, “We have informed both India and China that the United States is ready, willing and able to mediate or arbitrate their now raging border dispute.”

The stand-off began when a scuffle broke out near Pangong Tso Lake in the first week of May. According to Indian reports, Chinese troops set up dozens of tents on the Indian side of the Line of Actual Control (LAC).

A few days later, a Chinese patrol was stopped by Indian guards near the Nathula Pass in the Indian state of Sikkim. A troop build-up in the Ladakh and Sikkim areas followed the incidents. Reports suggested that 10,000 Chinese soldiers were sent to the border.

While New Delhi was still blaming China last week for “hindering” Indian patrols at the border, its Foreign Ministry announced on Thursday that “the two sides have established mechanisms both at military and diplomatic levels to resolve situations which may arise in border areas peacefully through dialogue and continue to remain engaged through these channels.”

Foreign policy experts say that in the absence of any concrete information it is difficult to comment on whether any resolution is actually taking place.

“The whole region of Ladakh is undefined, there is no agreed LAC, in some areas they respect each other’s position, and in some areas they don’t, which is the crux of the problem,” Prof. Srikanth Kondapalli, of Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi, told Arab News.

“Geopolitical interests of both countries are at the center of the conflict,” Kondapalli said, “For India Ladakh is linked to its sovereignty. India has so many ongoing projects in that area. For China its ambitious China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) passes not far away from the region and connect to the Gwadar port in Pakistan. Besides, once American troops leave Afghanistan and a new regime takes over Kabul this might have its implications in the region.”

Manoj Kewalramani, of the Bangalore-based think tank The Takshashila Institution, said that from a geopolitical perspective both sides need stability at this time and the current situation on the border is not helping either of them.

“Beijing is facing challenges on many fronts, an economic slowdown, tensions with the US, international anger amid the pandemic, protests in Hong Kong, etc.,” he said. “Likewise, New Delhi’s interests lie in managing the COVID-19 outbreak at home and focusing on reviving the economy.”