What is Mission Sakti

After the launch of the satellite, India sees itself as the fourth superpower in space

New Delhi - On Wednesday, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi made a surprise appearance in front of the cameras. In a TV address broadcast across India, the head of the Hindu nationalist BJP announced that India is now part of the "super league" in space. The Indian space program had succeeded in shooting down a test satellite from low earth orbit. The satellite was at an altitude of 300 kilometers and was shot down by a so-called anti-satellite weapon (Asat). The "Shakti" mission lasted only three minutes.

So far, only the three countries USA, Russia and China have succeeded in doing this. "It is a great moment for India," said the prime minister. "We are not only able to defend ourselves on land, on water and in the air, but also in space."

The surprising announcement comes just two weeks before the start of the parliamentary elections in the largest democracy in the world. From April 11th to May 19th, almost a billion people will be called to cast their votes. Modi and his BJP lost a considerable amount of votes in regional elections in December - the head of government is under pressure to stir up the mood for his policies.

The opposition found critical words to the test kill. West Bengal State Minister Mamata Banerjee announced that she would file a complaint with the Electoral Commission against Modi's announcement. Modi would be desperate to take political advantage of it. That would violate the election code of conduct.

Pakistan warns of the militarization of space

In the past few weeks, Modi has put a lot of emphasis on security, patriotism and nationalism. This was also evident about a month ago when the Kashmir conflict with Pakistan threatened to escalate.

Without directly addressing India's test kill, Pakistan published an appeal against rearmament in space on Wednesday afternoon. "Space is the common heritage of humanity and every nation has a responsibility to avoid any action that could lead to this arena becoming militarized," the State Department said in a statement.

India has long been pursuing a race to catch up in space. Last August, Modi announced that it would carry out manned flights into space by 2022. The unmanned spacecraft "Chandrayaan-1" flew around the moon almost ten years ago. (Anna Sawerthal, March 27, 2019)