India had so far been developing solutions for the socio-economic sector, now we are showing our capabilities in the military sector as well. The decision to demonstrate our capabilities to shoot down a low-orbital satellite with a missile is indeed a big strategic step.

India has become the fourth country in the world to do so after Russia, the US and China. It could give rival countries an indication that we are using these capabilities for our military use. But, it was more of a demonstration of what we can do.

If we venture into the nuclear debate, five nuclear-weapon states (NWS)—China, France, Russia, United Kingdom, and the United States, often called the ‘Big five’had decided that we can have the nuclear weapons, but the rest of the world said we cannot.

But in the case of space, there is no such rule mechanism. The only countries that have shown Anti-Satellite Missile capabilities are the US, Russia and China, besides India.

Now, there is a possibility that the three powers can come together and say that only they can have this capability. In such a case, India could tell the world that it also has the capability and, if there is a rulebook, then India cannot be neglected. It strengthens India’s position as a major space power with proven space technology.

India expects to play a role in the future in the drafting of international law on prevention of an arms race in the space, considering India is already party to all the major international treaties relating to outer space.

Anti-satellite missile is usually for lower-earth orbits. No country in the world has tested A-SAT the way it has been achieved by India on Wednesday. It will act as deterrence for satellites, which are in lower atmosphere, mostly spy satellites. It gives us an edge.

But one should look at this feat, more in terms of strengthening India’s strategic capabilities. That India can safeguard its space assets.

The major challenge before the team of scientists was the accuracy, and we have successfully achieved that by intercepting a satellite in outer space based on complete indigenous technology.

As the world starts developing newer satellites, the challenge would not just be the distance of the target, but on accuracy. In order to take on a satellite, one needs accuracy.

On Wednesday, we had the target of our own choosing, an existing satellite by Indian Space Research Organisation (Isro) operating in the lower-orbit. But it demonstrates that we know how to hit a target in space. Tomorrow, it can be foreign satellites, but those technologies need to be fine-tuned. Our research agencies have developed the capabilities to predict the movement of satellites, but accuracy is the key.

Space technologies are continuously evolving at a fast rate. In the near future, we could see development of more such space technologies and Mission Shakti paves the way for demonstrations of those capabilities.

There are more options, in terms of anti-satellite weapons, which could be explored. For instance, jamming and laser anti-satellite weapons will be really important.

Another feat achieved by India during the test is that the missile has not left any debris in space, which could have caused problems for other satellites.

The satellite was targeted at an altitude of 300km in a low-orbit, and the debris, most likely, have been pulled down into the earth’s atmosphere and melted, since temperatures run as high as 3,000°C.

Ajey Lele is a senior fellow at Institute for Defence Studies Analyses , New Delhi. 

Close