India on Wednesday shot down a live satellite in space as part of an operation called Mission Shakti, which it said was an effort to show its capability to protect its space assets. The announcement was made by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in a rare televised address to the nation.
Modi said India had become the fourth country to show anti-satellite missile capability. The operation was completed successfully within three minutes of launch, he said. The government said the mission used indigenous technology and one of India’s own satellites, and was not targeted at any country.
Opposition parties praised scientists but criticised the government for the manner of the announcement as it comes just two weeks before the Lok Sabha elections begin. The Election Commission has set up a panel to examine the allegation that Modi violated the Model Code of Conduct.
Here’s how the day unfolded:
9.10 pm: The Communist Party of India claims Modi’s announcement was an attempt at warmongering, to create “fear psychosis” among voters. “He has politicised the achievements of the scientists, taken credit for it and used public broadcasting to do so,” party leader D Raja says, according to PTI. “Also, he is trying to create a fear psychosis in the minds of the people ahead of the elections and is warmongering. This shows that they are desperate and panicky.” Raja demands that the poll panel take action immediately.
9 pm: Karnataka Chief Minister HD Kumaraswamy accuses Modi of seeking votes “using the works done by someone else”. He adds: “Is this a major achievement of the Modi government? There is a team of scientists in the country specifically for that purpose.They do their job in a routine manner, irrespective of whichever government is in power.”
8.45 pm: Deputy Election Commissioner Sandeep Saxena will head the committee, the Election Commission spokesperson says.
8.40 pm: The Election Commission says it has asked a committee of officers to examine the prime minister’s address to the nation in light of the Model Code of Conduct that is in place, ANI reports.
6.50 pm: DRDO Chairman G Satheesh Reddy tells PTI that the anti-satellite missile test is a “great achievement”. It has “reflected our capability and will act as a good deterrence”, he says.
Clearance for the project was given over two years back, Reddy says, adding that the project was implemented in the fastest way possible.
6.36 pm: Amit Shah tweets: “After spending a lifetime of humiliating our soldiers, Leaders of the Opposition have expanded their influence to ridiculing our scientists.”
He adds: “UPA did not have the courage to back its institutions and people, NDA under PM Modi has shown the conviction to do so.”
6.31 pm: BJP chief Amit Shah responds to Rahul Gandhi’s tweet, says: “Thus speaks the inheritor of the dynasty that thinks All the nation’s a stage! For them: Sacrifices of soldiers - drama, Success of scientists - drama. Masquerading as leaders, all that ‘The Dynasty’ has done is to plunder, weaken and ruin the nation.”
Earlier in the day, Gandhi had wished Prime Minister Narendra Modi “a very happy World Theatre Day”.
6.15 pm: Using a reference to the 17th-century Spanish classic, Pakistan says “boasting of such capabilities is reminiscent of Don Quixote’s tilting against windmills”.
“We hope that countries which have in the past strongly condemned demonstration of similar capabilities by others will be prepared to work towards developing international instruments to prevent military threats relating to outer space,” says Islamabad.
6.11 pm: Pakistan’s foreign ministry, without naming India, calls itself a “strong proponent of prevention of arms race 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,” says Pakistan in a statement. “We believe that there is a need to address gaps in the international space laws with a view to ensuring that no one threatens peaceful activities and applications of space technologies for socio-economic development.”
5.26 pm: Congress President Rahul Gandhi says Modi’s expression during his speech showed anxiety that “his time to go has come”, reports PTI. “He made the country wait for 45 minutes for his announcement, did you look at his face?” says Gandhi. “He has realised that the Congress will now give justice...Modi is now afraid...”
5.16 pm: Former ISRO chairman G Madhavan Nair tells PTI news agency that India had the anti-satellite missile capability more than a decade ago but there was no political will at the time to demonstrate it. “...now Modiji has taken the initiative and he had the political will and courage to say that we will do this,” he is quoted as saying. “We have now demonstrated this to whole world.”
Nair says India could “certainly” have demonstrated the capability in 2007 itself.
5.14 pm: Reacting to India’s announcement, China’s Foreign Ministry tells PTI: “We have noticed reports and hope that each country will uphold peace and tranquillity in outer space.”
China had conducted such a test in January 2007.
5.10 pm: The prime minister is sharing congratulatory posts on Twitter. He tells cricketer Shikhar Dhawan, “Just like you smash the bad deliveries out of the park, our scientists have given India the capability to smash those forces who threaten our peace and harmony.”
To former President Pranab Mukherjee, Modi says: “These rich words from a distinguished statesman like you, who has also dealt with issues of national security, will greatly encourage our scientists and engineers. They have always worked to strengthen India and will continue to do so.”
4.58 pm: Former President Pranab Mukherjee congratulates DRDO for the mission’s success. “DRDO’s brilliant run continues,” he tweets. “The success of Mission Shakti is a proud moment for all Indians, an achievement that further strengthens our strategic capabilities.”
4.55 pm: Prime Minister Narendra Modi says the credit of the mission goes to the scientists. “Undaunted by the shameful mockery of a select few, they continue to serve Maa Bharti,” he says on Twitter.
4.51 pm: West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee questions the timing of Modi’s announcement on Mission Shakti. “What was the need for Modi at the time of election to violate the Model Code of Conduct to take the credit?” she asks, according to ANI. “Does he work there? Is he going to space?”
“It’s a political announcement, scientists should have announced it, it’s their credit,” she says, according to ANI. “Only one satellite was destroyed, that wasn’t necessary, it was lying there since long, it’s the prerogative of scientists, when to do it. We will complain to the EC.”
4.48 pm: Former DRDO chief VK Saraswat says the United Progressive Alliance government did not give a positive response on the mission when presentations were made to the National Security Adviser and National Security Council, reports ANI.
“When the proposal was put up by Dr Satheesh Reddy [and] NSA [National Security Advisor] Ajit Doval to PM Modi, he had the courage [and] based on that he gave a go ahead,” says Saraswat. “If the clearances were given in 2012-13, I’m quite certain that the launch would have happened in 2014-15.”
4.43 pm: Prime Minister Narendra Modi talks to scientists involved with Mission Shakti via video conference. He says the entire nation is proud of the scientists. In line with the “Make in India” initiative, the scientists have given a message to the world that we are less than no one, says Modi.
4.37 pm: Unidentified officials in the Election Commission say the government does not need to take permission from the poll panel in matters of national security, reports Hindustan Times.
Opposition leaders, including Mamata Banerjee and Sitaram Yechury, have criticised the prime minister for making the announcement on Mission Shakti when the Model Code of Conduct is in place.
4.31 pm: Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu congratulates Indian Space Research Organisation and Defence Research and Development Organisation for the “remarkable accomplishment.”
“A proud moment for India as we enter our name as an elite space power today,” he says.
4.11 pm: Yechury says: “It is ironic that this most science-unfriendly govt after independence, which has slashed record funds for R&D [and] other science funding; which has shafted HAL to help private cronies, is now trying to exploit advances in space technology to seek political gains. Wah, Modiji, Wah!”
4.07 pm: In his letter to the Election Commission, Yechury says such a mission should have been announced by the relevant scientific authority, like the DRDO. Yechury says Modi’s announcement comes in the midst of an election campaign and that Modi himself was contesting the elections.
“This is clearly a violation of the Model Code of Conduct,” he says in the letter.
4.01 pm: Communist Party of India (Marxist) General Secretary Sitaram Yechury writes to the Election Commission, asking why Prime Minister Narendra Modi was allowed make the announcement when the Model Code of Conduct is in place.
“The country would like to know the special reasons why the Election Commission permitted the achievements of Indian scientists to be politically coloured during the course of the general elections,” he says.d
3.58 pm: Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar congratulates DRDO and its scientists for the success of Mission Shakti. “I extend my greetings to them [DRDO and scientists] as the entire nation is proud of their achievements,” he said in a statement.
3.50 pm: Defence Research and Development Organisation chairperson G Satheesh Reddy says the mission shows the country has mastered anti-satellite capability and can hit satellites at long ranges with a few centimetres accuracy, reports ANI.
3.34 pm: Maharashtra Navnirman Sena chief Raj Thackeray asks why Prime Minister Narendra Modi addressed the nation on Mission Shakti. “The effort and work was done by scientists, shouldn’t they have been given the opportunity to share this with the nation?” he asked. “They deserve their moment of glory.”
3.01 pm: Jaitley says India has been a responsible acquirer of nuclear technology. He says the world knows India’s commitment to peace, according to NDTV. He says space debris from the mission will be cleared in three weeks.
“Opposition needs lessons in country’s security,” says Jaitley. He terms Opposition’s criticism as “clerical objections”, reports Hindustan Times.
2.56 pm: Jaitley says India’s nuclear programme is a continuing programme and goes on for 365 days, whether there are elections or not, reports NDTV.
“India’s nuclear programme can’t be halted because it doesn’t suit the West Bengal CM or any other political leader,” Jaitley says. He was responding to Mamata Banerjee’s statement on approaching the Election Commission.
2.53 pm: Jaitley says India’s objective is only deterrence. He says India will be able to compel others to maintain peace in the region.
2.51 pm: Jaitley says Mission Shakti is a massive achievement, reports NDTV. He says India is a peace-loving country and the test was performed only for security. “The country must always be prepared.”
2.49 pm: Finance Minister Arun Jaitley says Indian scientists had the capability to build anti-satellite missile a decade ago, but the then government did not provide permission.
“Tomorrow’s wars will not be the same as yesterday’s war,” he says.
2.45 pm: Ministry of External Affairs issues a press release on “Frequently Asked Questions on Mission Shakti”.
Highlights from the statement:
- The anti-satellite missile test was conducted from the Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam Island launch complex off the coast of Odisha on Wednesday.
- The mission was carried out by Defence Research and Development Organisation.
- The satellite used in the mission was one of India’s existing satellites operating in lower orbit. The DRDO’s Ballistic Missile Defence interceptor was used, which is part of the ongoing ballistic missile defence programme.
- The test was done to verify that India has the capability to safeguard its space assets. “It is the Government of India’s responsibility to defend the country’s interests in outer space.”
- India does not intend on entering an arms race in outer space. “We are against the weaponization of outer space and support international efforts to reinforce the safety and security of space based assets.”
- The test is not directed against any country. “At the same time, the government is committed to ensuring the country’s national security interests and is alert to threats from emerging technologies.”
- The capability achieved through the test provides “credible deterrence” against threats to India’s space-based assets from long range missiles, and proliferation in missiles.
2.35 pm: Former ISRO chairperson K Kasturirangan says he is proud that the country successfully demonstrated anti-satellite missile capability. “All I can say is it’s a very, very great event,” Kasturirangan tells PTI. “And we are all proud that we have taken the next step in the space, a very critical, crucial and probably a very difficult step to have taken successfully.”
2.30 pm: President Ram Nath Kovind says Mission Shakti represents a “watershed moment for India”. “Testing of the Anti-Satellite Missile demonstrates India’s scientific prowess and commitment to harnessing space technology for the security and empowerment of our people,” he says. “My congratulations to all concerned.”
2.29 pm: Bahujan Samaj Party chief Mayawati says Election Commission should take strict action against the prime minister’s announcement. She congratulated the scientists for the mission, but said it was regrettable that Narendra Modi had used it for electoral benefit.
2.18 pm: Former Defence Research and Development Organisation chief VK Saraswat says India today has the technological capability to match adversaries who want to militarise space, reports ANI. Saraswat, who is a member of the NITI Aayog, says India does not have any plans to weaponise space.
2.09 pm: West Bengal Minister Firhad Hakim says Narendra Modi should “stop taking credit” for achievements of job done by others, reports PTI. “The Modi government in the last five years has failed to provide any relief to the people of the country,” he says. “So ahead of the elections, the BJP and Modi should stop these tricks to fool the masses. It won’t have any impact on the poll prospects of the BJP in the upcoming elections.”
1.56 pm: West Bengal Chief Minister and Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee criticises Narendra Modi, saying his announcement was “yet another limitless drama and publicity mongering...desperately trying to reap political benefits at the time of election”.
“This is a gross violation of Model Code of Conduct,” she says on Twitter. There is no great urgency in conducting and announcing the mission now by a government past its expiry date. It seems a desperate oxygen to save the imminent sinking of the BJP boat. We are lodging a complaint with the Election Commission.”
1.53 pm: Taking a dig at Narendra Modi, Congress President Rahul Gandhi wishes him a “happy World Theatre Day”.
World Theatre Day is celebrated on March 27.
1.32 pm: “Mission Shakti is a hallmark of our scientific aptitude & commitment to national security,” tweets Smriti Irani.
Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan and BJP President Amit Shah also congratulated scientists and the prime minister for the mission.
1.30 pm: Congratulating the DRDO, Congress leader Randeep Singh Surjewala says the building blocks of Mission Shakti were laid during UPA-Congress government in 2012.
1.25 pm: Union minister Ravishankar Prasad says it is a historic day. “India has emerged as a big space power for which all the scientists and the Prime Minister, in particular, deserve full praise. I compliment the scientists and the Prime Minister,” he tells ANI.
1.20 pm: NITI Aayog CEO Amitabh Kant says that the operation showcases India’s “coming of age” in the global technological and R&D arena. “Bringing down a live satellite in space is a feat which requires scientific precision, capability & prowess.”
1.18 pm: Union minister Rajnath Singh says the success of Mission Shakti will help in strengthening India’s defence capabilities. “We are proud that our Space and Defence prog has touched unprecedented heights with this glorious achievement,” he tweets.
1.15 pm: Advocate Prashant Bhushan says, “As we waited with baited breath for Modi’s grand announcement on National TV & Radio on the eve of elections, Modi chose to announce DRDO & ISRO’s decades old work on an anti satellite weapon as his new ‘surgical strike’! Clearly it will now provide 10Cr jobs to our people!”
1.12 pm: Vice President Venkaiah Naidu says, “Compliment our Scientists on their successful launch of anti-satellite missile. We, as a nation, are proud of our Scientists.”
Maharashtra minister Vinod Tawde also congratulated the DRDO.
1.10 pm: Samajwadi Party leader Akhilesh Yadav says Narendra Modi got himself “an hour of free TV and divert the nation’s attention” from matters like unemployment, rural crisis and women’s security.
1.06 pm: The Congress party also congratulates ISRO and the government for the achievement. “The Indian Space Programme established in 1961 by Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru & the Indian Space Research Organisation set up under Smt. Indira Gandhi has always made India proud with its ground breaking achievements,” it says on Twitter.
The party, however, later deleted the tweet and shared a message again saying the Indian Space Programme was established in 1962.
1 pm: Union minister Suresh Prabhu says, “Massive Space Leap for India. Kudos to DRDO scientists for this huge technological advancement. Arrival of India as Space Super Power.”
12.59 pm: Union minister Rajyavardhan Rathore says the successful execution of Mission Shakti is a proud, powerful, historical moment for the country. “Under the visionary leadership of PM Narendra Modi, today we have become a formidable space power with proven Anti-Satellite Missile capability,” he tweets.
12.58 pm: Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman congratulates the scientists at ISRO and DRDO for developing and demonstrating A-SAT capabilities.
12.56 pm: Former DRDO Chief and NITI Aayog member Dr VK Saraswat tells ANI, “This is a fantastic capability to have and it gives us a deterrence in case our adversaries try to militarise the space or try to prevent us from using our existing space capabilities.”
12.54 pm: Congress leader Ahmed Patel says the previous United Progressive Alliance government had initiated the A-SAT program “which has reached fruition today”. “I congratulate our space scientists & the visionary leadership of Dr Manmohan Singh,” he tweets.
12.51 pm: Union minister Nitin Gadkari congratulates scientists over the success of Mission Shakti. “India is moving fast towards becoming a world leader and under PM Modi’s leadership, it is on its way to not only become a ‘super economic power’, but also a ‘super science power’,” he says.
12.45 pm: All Indians should feel safe in the country is our aim, Modi says. “I have full confidence over people’s capability, dedication and diligence. We will together build a powerful, prosperous and safe India.”
12.42 pm: The A-SAT missile has strengthened the country with respect to national security and development, he adds.
12.41 pm: He congratulates the Defence Research and Development Organisation and other scientists for the feat. “Mission Shakti was a highly complex one, conducted at extremely high speed with remarkable precision. It shows the remarkable dexterity of India’s outstanding scientists and the success of our space programme,” he says on Twitter.
12.40 pm: ‘Mission Shakti’ is an important step towards securing India’s safety, economic growth and technological advancement, the prime minister adds.
12.34 pm: What India has done does not breach any international law or treaties, Modi says. “It speaks of the country’s technological and defence prowess. India has always been against the use of weapons in space and the country has not changed its stance,” he adds.
12.33 pm: “Our aim is to maintain peace over war mongering. The space programme’s aim is peace, India’s economic and technological progress,” he says.
12.32 pm: The prime minister says that the Mission Shakti operation was completed in just 3 minutes using an A-SAT Made In India. “It is a proud moment for Indians.”
12.30 pm: The ‘Mission Shakti’ operation was a difficult target to achieve which was completed successfully within three minutes of launch, Modi says. “We are proud of our scientists.”
12.27 pm: Anti-satellite weapon A-SAT has successfully targeted a live satellite on a Low Earth Orbit, Modi says.
12.24 pm: “India has established its name as a space power,” says Modi. “Until now, only US, China and Russia have done this. Now India is the fourth country.”
12.23 pm: You can watch Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s address live here:
12.10 pm: Social media has been speculating what the prime minister will address the country about. National Conference leader Omar Abdullah jokes that Modi will declare the results of the Lok Sabha elections.
11.45 am: Earlier on Wednesday, the Cabinet Committee on Security, chaired by Modi, had met ahead of the prime minister’s address. National Security Advisor Ajit Doval was also present at the meeting.
11.30 am: Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweets that he will address the nation with an “important message” soon.