India PM Modi hails major breakthrough after shooting down satellite

Modi made the announcement in a television address to the nation. (Bloomberg pic)

NEW DELHI: Prime Minister Narendra Modi said India had shot down a satellite in space on Wednesday with an anti-satellite missile, hailing the test as a major breakthrough in its space programme.

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

Such capabilities have raised fears of the weaponisation of space and setting off a race between rival powers.

“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.”

Modi faces a general election next month. He went on Twitter earlier to announce his plan for a national broadcast, saying he had an important announcement to make.

India has had a space programme for years, making earth imaging satellites and launch capabilities as a cheaper alternative to Western programmes.

Brahma Chellaney, a security expert at New Delhi’s Centre of Policy Research, said the United States Russia and China were pursuing anti-satellite (ASAT) 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.”

No comment was immediately available from old rival Pakistan. There was also no immediate reaction from China’s foreign or defence ministries.