India says it has successfully tested a new anti-satellite missile, marking another major development in its budding space program.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced Wednesday in a nationally televised address that scientists had destroyed a satellite orbiting about 300 kilometers above Earth’s atmosphere in a mission that lasted only three minutes. The prime minister said the country has now “registered its name as a space power” alongside the United States, China and Russia, the only other nations to achieve such a feat.
The United States and the former Soviet Union conducted anti-satellite tests from the early days of the space age, with the U.S. successfully shooting down a satellite in 1985. China achieved the feat in 2007.
Modi insisted that Wednesday’s test did not violate any international treaties, and was conducted purely in the interest of national security.
The test was conducted as Modi leads his Hindu-nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party into parliamentary elections on April 11 in his quest for a second term. It is also the latest demonstration of India’s military capabilities since 40 Indian soldiers were killed in February in a suicide bombing attack in the disputed region of Kashmir.
New Delhi retaliated with airstrikes on a suspected militant camp in Pakistan, its bitter rival and nuclear-armed neighbor.
An Indian fighter jet was shot down and its pilot briefly held captive after the two sides engaged in a subsequent aerial dogfight over Kashmir.