NEW DELHI – India successfully tested a space missile system by hitting a low earth orbit satellite, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on Wednesday, declaring the country a space power two weeks ahead of the general elections.
“India has marked its name as an elite space power. An anti-satellite weapon, or A-SAT, successfully targeted a live satellite on a low earth orbit,” Modi said in a suddenly-announced televised address.
“Some time back, our scientists struck down LEO or the Low Earth Orbit satellite,” Modi said.
The anti-satellite system is a space weapon system used to destroy satellites for strategic military purposes and gives the country that possesses it a strategic command over space-based assets with an ability to jam enemy satellites or destroy them in times of war.
But Modi asserted in his speech in Hindi that India won’t use its anti-satellite weapon against other nations.
“I assure the international community that our capability won’t be used against anyone but is purely India’s defense initiative for its security. We are against arms race in space. This test won’t breach any international law or bilateral treaties,” the prime minister said.
He said Mission Shakti “is a big win for India” and was “completed within three minutes” at an “extremely high speed with remarkable precision.”
Modi said that with the successful test, India has become the fourth space power with such capability after the United States, Russia and China.
“It shows the remarkable dexterity of India’s outstanding scientists and the success of our space program,” he said.
The prime minister added that the effort and technology used to build the A-SAT system was all indigenous and has made “India stronger, even more secure and will further peace and harmony” in the region.
The announcement comes as India is set to hold staggered general elections that begin on April 11 with results to be announced on May 23.
Modi is seeking a second term even as the government has been drawing flak over rising unemployment, the agricultural crisis and a sluggish economy.
According to a National Sample Survey Office report – which was supposed to have been published in December, but has been held back – the unemployment rate between July 2017 and June 2018 was 6.1 percent, the highest in 45 years.
Parts of the findings were leaked to Indian newspaper Business Standard last month.