ISRO Missions and Discoveries

[op-ed snap] Power in space: on Mission Shakti


Mains Paper 3: Science & Technology | Awareness in the fields of IT, Space, Computers, robotics etc.

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Mission Shakti, ASAT

Mains level: Strategic significance of the Mission Shakti and it impacts on domestic politics and neighbourhood


India has entered an elite space club with the Defence Research and Development Organisation blowing up a satellite in a Low Earth Orbit into smithereens.


  • Such Indian capability to take out moving objects has never really been in doubt.
  • the DRDO announced it as early as in 2011.
  • Indeed, India has been in the business of testing long-range missiles for years, although public attention on the space programme has been mostly on its civilian and scientific aspects.
  • The military dimension, though always latent, had not seen a verifiable demonstration as in the case of Mission Shakti, the Anti-Satellite (ASAT) missile test.

The relevance of the test

  • Ministry of External Affairs describes it as a ‘credible deterrence’ against attacks on India’s growing number of space assets.
  • Although only three other countries, the U.S., Russia, and China, have previously demonstrated this capability, it is possible to surmise that countries with long-range missiles could do the same with equal effectiveness.
  • But India, surely, is staking a forward claim as a space weapons power.

It might propel Arms Race in the neighbourhood

  • This might lead to its none-too-friendly neighbour Pakistan into a competitive frenzy.
  • Also, in the absence of a credible threat to India’s space assets from China or any other country with Anti-Satellite missile capabilities, whether the ‘deterrence’ sought to be achieved by this test would lead to a more stable strategic security environment is not certain.

Intentions of India with regards to ASAT

  • While announcing the success of the test, was clear that India wanted to maintain peace rather than indulge in warmongering.
  • And, by targeting a low-orbit satellite, the missile test did the utmost possible to minimise space debris, which is an issue of international concern.

Concerns with the timing of test and elections

  • But, within India, the timing of the test, when the country is already in election mode, does raise concerns whether this was aimed at the domestic constituency.
  • The Election Commission is now seized of the question whether the Prime Minister might have violated the Model Code of Conduct.
  • If it does find the timing amiss, the government could be in for some serious embarrassment.


  • Ideally, the test should not have been a matter for a partisan political debate, but given the hypernationalist political plank of the ruling Party, Mission Shakti might have more reverberations on the ground than it has had in space.
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