India shoots down satellite

Prime Minister Narendra Modi
Prime Minister Narendra Modi makes the announcement. Photo credit: Reuters

Prime Minister Narendra Modi says India has shot down a satellite in space, hailing the anti-satellite missile test as a major breakthrough in its space program.

In a television address to the nation, Modi said India would be the fourth country to have used such an anti-satellite weapon after the United States, Russia and China.

"Some time ago, our scientists, shot down a live satellite 300km away in space, in low-earth orbit," Modi said, calling it a historic feat.

"India has made an unprecedented achievement today," he said, speaking in Hindi. "India registered its name as a space power."

Soon after the announcement, Pakistan issued a call against military threats in outer space.

"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," Pakistan's foreign ministry said in a statement.

India has had a space program for years, making Earth imaging satellites and launch capabilities as a cheaper alternative to Western programs.

Brahma Chellaney, a security expert at New Delhi's Centre of Policy Research, said the United States, Russia and China were pursuing anti-satellite weapons.

"Space is being turned into a battlefront, making counter-space capabilities critical. In this light, India's successful kill with an ASAT weapon is significant."

There was no immediate reaction from China's foreign or defence ministries.

An Indian Opposition leader, Mamata Banerjee, said she was lodging a complaint against Prime Minister Narendra Modi over his announcement, saying he had done it to "reap political benefits" before an election.

"Today's announcement is yet another limitless drama and publicity mongering by Modi desperately trying to reap political benefits at the time of election," Banerjee, the chief minister of West Bengal state and a potential Prime Ministerial candidate, said on Twitter.

She said it was a gross violation of an electoral code of conduct.