“Power, Unlimited Power”?
On Wednesday, 27 March, Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi announced that the country had successfully tested ASAT (Anti-Satellite) missiles. The missile was fired from a testing facility in Odisha, Eastern India, led by the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), in an operation named ‘Mission Shakti’.
The missile destroyed a low-Earth orbit live satellite, cruising at an altitude of 300km. According to Modi, this places India as part of the “super space league”, being the 4th nation along with China, Russia and the United States to have anti-satellite capabilities.
According to his Twitter, he believes that the launch “…will make India stronger, even more secure and will further peace and harmony.”
“It’s A Trap!”
However, the launch comes a month after India and Pakistan air forces engaged in fighter jet dogfights and mutual airstrikes over the disputed Kashmir border. A few hours after Modi’s announcement, Pakistan’s foreign ministry issued a statement, that “Space is the common heritage of mankind and every nation has the responsibility to avoid actions which can lead to the militarisation of this arena.”
The timing of the mission has also been called into question by India’s opposition parties. Major opposition figure Mamata Banerjee, leader of the All India Trinamool Congress (AITC) party, criticized Modi’s move on Twitter, saying that Modi is “desperately trying to reap political benefits at the time of election. This is a gross violation of Model Code of Conduct.”
India is already planning for their first manned space mission in 2022, called the ‘Gaganyaan Project’, setting aside a budget of 100 billion rupees ($1.43bn). Modi is also currently campaigning for a second term in office. India will be voting from 11 April to 19 May.
Do Satellites Die With A Thunderous Applause?
Modi is known for his nationalists displays, and this recent development in India’s space program can be seen as another assertion of his political legitimacy.
He and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) remain highly popular in popularity polls. But ratings have likewise improved for Mamata Banerjee in West Bengal.