Soon after India demonstrated its anti-satellite missile capability on Wednesday, former Defence Research and Development Organisation director-general VK Saraswat claimed that his team had proposed the same to the previous government as well but had not got a response. Saraswat is now a member of the NITI Aayog.
Former Indian Space Research Organisation chairperson G Madhavan Nair also claimed India had the capability for an anti-satellite missile more a decade ago but there was no “political will” then to demonstrate it.
The remarks came hours after India shot down a live satellite in space as part of an operation called Mission Shakti. The announcement was made by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in a rare televised address to the nation. The government later said it was an effort to show its capability to protect its space assets.
Speaking to India Today, Saraswat said that he had made presentations to the then ministers and security advisors in 2012-’13, and sought financial resources and clearance to be able to demonstrate this capability. “Unfortunately, the response was not coming forward and unfortunately we did not go ahead with this sort of exercise in 2012-’13,” Saraswat said.
Defence Research and Development Organisation Chairperson G Satheesh Reddy said that the clearance for the anti-satellite missile project was given two years ago, PTI reported. “It is a great achievement for India,” Reddy said. “The anti-satellite missile test has reflected our capability and will act as a good deterrence.” Reddy said that the technology used for the test was developed completely indigenously.
“We have mastered anti-satellite capability and we have today shown that we can hit satellites at long ranges with a few centimeters accuracy,” he told ANI.
Earlier on Wednesday, Modi had said that India shot down a live satellite in space and earned a place in global space power. The Mission Shakti operation was a difficult target to achieve which was completed successfully within three minutes of launch, Modi had said while adding that India is now among only four countries with this capability.
In another interview, Saraswat told ANI that the DRDO had proposed building such an anti-satellite weapon to Shivshankar Menon, who was National Security Advisor during the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance regime. “If the nod had been given at that point of time, we would have demonstrated this kind of capability earlier,” he said.
Meanwhile, Nair said India possessed the required technology for such a mission in 2007, when China shot down an ageing weather satellite. “Now [Prime Minister Narendra] Modiji has taken the initiative and he had the political will and courage to say that we will do this,” Nair said. “We have now demonstrated this to whole world.”
Opposition leaders, including Rahul Gandhi and Mamata Banerjee, criticised Modi for allegedly dramatising and taking credit for Indian space scientists’ work. Congress leaders claimed that the UPA government had initiated the ASAT programme years ago, which has reached fruition today.
Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, during a press conference, claimed that scientists concerned had claimed that they could build the weapon in 2005 but that they were denied permission to do so. “Those who are patting their backs today should remember that our scientists had the capability to build anti-satellite missiles a decade ago, but the then government never gave them permission,” Jaitley claimed.