The anti-satellite programme that started under Manmohan Singh’s leadership has culminated now, said Arvind Kumar, a professor of geopolitics and international relations at Manipal University, drawing a distinction between India’s earlier capability and the new reality on space defence.
“The process may have started in the Congress regime but it culminated in the current one. So, it shows this dispensation’s confidence,” said Kumar, who has written a chapter on India and ASAT capability in a book titled Space Security: Need for Global Convergence in 2012.
The current Modi-led regime’s bid to take credit is a “political” move, he added.
The Congress, understandably, did not want all the credit to go to Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Party leader Ahmed Patel congratulated space scientists and the “visionary leadership” of Manmohan Singh, minutes after Modi’s announcement that India is now in an elite club with the US, Russia and China that are capable of anti-satellite strikes in space.
In 2012, Vijay K. Saraswat, the then Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) chief, had said that all the building blocks for anti-satellite (ASAT) capability were ready for India. After the successful test of the Agni V, he suggested that India’s anti-ballistic missile defence programme can be used as an ASAT weapon.
Referring to Saraswat’s comment, Kumar said: “These are all statements that are made but now India has been able to translate that into action. To me, it is the right decision for India. Better late than never.”
Asked about the relevance of such tests, he said: “It means that we have defence capability in outer space and that our satellites will not be destroyed by our adversaries. Suppose, China wants to destroy them, it will have to think twice.”
Kumar said India had to integrate various components and do a lot of homework before declaring itself an ASAT-capable nation. “It really started way back, there is no doubt about it,” Kumar said. “To take credit for it is a political thing.”
He spoke about India’s Pokhran II nuclear tests. The process may have started in Narasimha Rao’s time but the test was done in Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s tenure. The move was seen as a reflection of “India’s resilience and confidence”, Kumar said.