India on Wednesday destroyed a low-orbiting satellite in a missile test that makes the country a space superpower, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said.
India became the fourth country after the United States, Russia and China to have carried out the feat.
In a rare televised address, just weeks before the nation goes to the polls, Modi said Indian scientists “shot down a live satellite at a low-earth orbit.”
“This is a proud moment for India,” the prime minister said, in his first televised national address since late 2016.
“India has registered its name in the list of space superpowers. Until now, only three countries had achieved this feat.”
The satellite was in orbit at 300 kilometers (185 miles) when it was destroyed.
Modi said the mission was peaceful and not designed to create “an atmosphere of war”, adding it was “not directed against any country.”
The announcement comes ahead of a national election in which Modi is seeking a second term in office.
Voting starts April 11 and will last nearly six weeks, with close to 900 million Indians eligible to vote in the world's largest election.
Destroying an enemy’s satellites, which can provide crucial intelligence and communications in war, is considered an advanced capability.
With the successful test on Wednesday, India theoretically holds other countries’ satellites at risk.
Neighboring Pakistan, with which India traded airstrikes last month, has several satellites in orbit, launched using Chinese and Russian rockets.
But China, which put dozens of satellites in orbit in 2018 alone, according to state media, could see India’s fledgling capability as more of a threat.
India needed to build anti-satellite weapons “because adversary China has already done it in 2007,” said Ajay Lele, senior fellow at the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses.
“More than anything I would say through this India is sending a message to the subcontinent," he added. "India is saying that we have mechanisms for space warfare.”
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