On March 27, the Prime Minister addressed the nation and announced that India has become the fourth nation, after US, China and Russia, to attain the capability to interdict and intercept a satellite in outer space after the successful Anti-Satellite (ASAT) missile test. What makes this feat glorious is that it is based on completely indigenous technology. However, the question still remains - why is the ASAT missile test or Mission Shakti important for India?
A top retired diplomat explained that this step is important not only because it is an asset to India but also because it has happened before any international agreement is forged. The diplomat also said that when the nuclear tests were carried out in Pokhran in 1998, India had to face a lot of criticism since the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) was already in place. So, the timing is just right because if any document is drawn on outer space now, it would also include the countries that already have the capability.
In 2008, China and Russia had introduced the draft text of such a treaty to the Conference on Disarmament (CD), after which they revised a draft treaty in 2014. The UN General Assembly is also trying to bring about an international legally binding document on the prevention of an arms race in outer space that would include the prevention of placement of weapons in outer space among other things.
During the time of war, ASATs can be used to intercept and jam communication or military satellites of enemy countries and stop them from communicating with their soldiers. It can also be used to access critical information about troop movements or incoming missiles.
The announcement, hence, sends a message to countries like China that carried out similar tests in 2007 and more recently, last year.
However, while announcing the ASAT missile test, aka Mission Shakti, Prime Minister Modi assured the international community that the technology is not a threat to anyone and is for India's security only. "India has always been opposed to the weaponisation of space and an arms race in outer space, and this test does not in any way change this position. Today's test does not violate any international law or treaty obligation to which India is a party", said Prime Minister Modi.
The MEA also reiterated the same in its statement: "The capability achieved through the 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."
Also read: What is ASAT and how can it be used in war?