India’s unprecedented achievement of successfully testing A-SAT, an anti-satellite missile, has rendered Pakistan green with envy. The test, termed as ‘Mission Shakti’ has put India in the elite league of space superpowers, alongside USA, Russia and China. Pakistan, comprehending the severity of India’s massive progression in science and technology, has come out criticising the test.
While condemning ‘Mission Shakti’, Pakistan has called on to the international community to draft stronger international laws against the militarization of space. They claimed that countries should use space technologies only for socio-economic development.
A spokesperson for the Pakistan government stated, “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.” He further reiterated, “Pakistan has been 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 militarization of this arena.”
In an attempt to mocking the announcement of the anti-satellite missile test by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Pakistan quoted the 17th century Spanish classic by Miguel de Cervantes by stating, “boasting of such capabilities is reminiscent of Don Quixote’s tilting against windmills”, a phrase which means to fight imaginary enemies.
USA, while raising concerns did not believe that India’s test was a military action or an act affecting international peace. The only concern they had was one of Space Debris, which is a valid scientific query. The US state department stated, “The issue of space debris is an important concern of the U.S. government. We took note of Indian government statements that the test was designed to address space debris issues.”
The Ministry of External Affairs, however, said the impact occurred in low atmosphere and that the remnants would “decay and fall back on to the Earth within weeks”.
Further to this, in an attempt to support India, US State Department noted, “As part of our strong strategic partnership with India, we will continue to pursue shared interests in space and scientific and technical cooperation, including collaboration on safety and security in space.”
US State Dept on #MissionShakti: Saw PM Modi's statement announcing India's anti-satellite test. As part of our strong strategic partnership with India,we'll continue to pursue shared interests in space&scientific&technical cooperation including collaboration on security in space
— ANI (@ANI) March 28, 2019
Observing the US government’s supportive reaction, China meanwhile, not wanting to overtly support its long time ally Pakistan, came out with a diplomatic statement. The Chinese Foreign Ministry, in a written response to a question from news agency PTI on India successfully test-firing an anti-satellite missile, said, “We have noticed reports and hope that each country will uphold peace and tranquillity in outer space.”
The watered down statement is also originating from the fact that China itself had made a huge mess back in 2007 when the Chinese A-SAT missile test had been launched. The mission led to large scale ramifications with the entire gamut of the low earth orbit filled with an estimated 35,000 pieces of debris, posing a potential risk to any satellite in that whole swath of space. India’s test is nowhere to the scale of China’s.
According to PM Modi, Mission Shakti destroyed one of India’s own satellites that was in a low Earth orbit around 186 miles (300 kilometers) up. Though Modi did not name the satellite, but Indian media and experts believe that the destroyed probe was Microsat-R. Weighing 1,630 pounds (740 kilograms), Microsat-R was a medium-sized military imaging satellite that was launched in January by the Indian Space Research Organization.
The international reactions are subdued as India did not indulge in a military conflict with any nation. Therefore A-SAT, though a weapon, has not been used in an actual conflict. The technology has been consistently touted to bring down defunct, malfunctioning or dangerous satellites if needed. The emphasis was on verifying that India has the capability to safeguard its space assets.
“Being a test, it probably did not affect the satellite of any other nation, and thus, is not an armed attack under the UN Charter which applies to outer space,” said Upasana Dasgupta, a doctoral candidate at the Institute of Air and Space Law, McGill University, Canada.
The A-SAT technology shows India’s focus on security challenges, emanating beyond Pakistan. Being years ahead with their planning, Indian government has realised at a very early stage that the A-SAT weapon is likely to be the most potent military tool for the armed forces over the next few decades. The test has not only added to India’s credentials but has also strengthened India’s defence to unparalleled heights.