Home Global Village India’s ASAT: The strategic and political implications in South Asia

India’s ASAT: The strategic and political implications in South Asia

Sabtain Ahmed Dar |

In his first televised national address since late 2016; Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi on March 27th said that the country had destroyed a low-orbiting satellite in a missile test, becoming the fourth country in the world to have carried out the feat. Modi claimed that the mission was peaceful and it was neither carried out to create an atmosphere of war nor it was directed against any country. But this demonstration of power has serious political and strategic implications on the region.

The Timing and Political Implications

India’s anti-satellite missile launch is intended to send a symbolic message to Pakistan. The timing of this missile launch is very interesting. India has deliberately chosen the month of March to demonstrate their “Space Power” which is the month of Pakistan Day. It is by no coincident that India only four days after the “Pakistan Day Military Parade” demonstrated this technology. The date of 27th March is itself interesting; after exactly a month many people in Pakistan were recalling Pakistan’s 27th February achievement against India in the Air.

UPA was founded by Sonia Gandhi who does not completely submit to the BJP’s notion on Pakistan rather follows a comprehensive secular and liberal policy of peaceful coexistence.

India has deliberately chosen 27th March to send an “India’s Space Power” symbolic message to Pakistan. Former India Space Research Organization (ISRO) chairman G Madhavan Nair said on Wednesday that India had the anti-satellite missile capability more than a decade ago but had no political will. One of the reasons behind India’s demonstration of this technology is the political will for war BJP/RSS has against Pakistan. Even if we talk in the context of India’s strategic thought India does not accept the reality of Pakistan as an independent sovereign state.

According to former director of India Defense Research and Development Organization (DRDO), V. K. Saraswat; “United Progressive Alliance (UPA) did not give the go-ahead to test fire ASAT missile because of fear psychosis”. UPA was founded by Sonia Gandhi who does not completely submit to the BJP’s notion on Pakistan rather follows a comprehensive secular and liberal policy of peaceful coexistence. UPA was aware of the repercussions and the implications of this test. The prime reason behind UPA’s decision to not to demonstrate this technology was to keep the “Space Race Door” locked and maintain the balance of power system in Asia.

Read more: Modi criticized for his theatrics & timing of ASAT launch

Modi’s decision to launch this anti-satellite missile just two weeks before the elections naturally serves his election campaign. Modi heralded to the whole nation; “India is now part of an exclusive club of nations, along with the United States, Russia, and China. And this is one of the most unprecedented victories of India”. Opposition leader Mamta Banerjee in reaction said; “Today’s announcement is yet another limitless drama and publicity-mongering by Modi desperately trying to reap political benefits at the time of election”. She is right because this project was completed at least 7 years before Modi’s term and it is being merely used a trump card to gain votes.

This decision also highlights the behavioral patterns of India’s Deep State. It must be noted here that India’s establishment and it’s Intelligence agency R&AW have never been so much relevant throughout history but in the Modi’s government. It is by no coincident that India’s defense budget has been increased by 8% during Modi’s administration. The actions of Modi are like a crystal ball to understand the behavior and thought patterns. Pakistan’s efforts to restore peace in the region through dialogue with India went in vain after this development.

A-STAT is an offensive system which can be used for retribution in response to an attack on India’s space assets. In this regard, the capability can be used as a deterrent against a potential rival.

India may appear to be covering its true intent through fancy diplomatic words but the timing and symbolic nature of this development are clearly showing the other side of the coin. There is a high probability that Indian deep state would like to see Modi as Prime Minister for another five years. Though it may endanger the image of India internationally or provokes disequilibrium in the balance of power system in Asia; but Pakistan and China will be smiling.

Strategic Implications

At the diplomatic level, Pakistan has clarified “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,” Pakistan’s foreign ministry said in a statement. On the other hand, China also acted guardedly expressing its hope that all countries will uphold peace and tranquility in the outer space.

Read more: India claims to shoot down satellite, join ‘space superpowers’

At the strategic level, the missile test has serious repercussions in South Asia; it will not only accelerate the space race with China but also destabilize the vulnerable balance of power between India and Pakistan. It will motivate Pakistan to balance this disequilibrium; in an attempt to balance it South Asia is likely to witness a new chapter of “Space Race”.

This development will also allow India essentially to blind an enemy by taking out its space-based communication and surveillance satellites and it should be taken seriously by Pakistan. A-STAT is an offensive system which can be used for retribution in response to an attack on India’s space assets. In this regard, the capability can be used as a deterrent against a potential rival.

India’s test should be taken as a motivation by the engineers in Pakistan’s SUPARCO, National Systems, and MTC. In realpolitik, it is essential to attain the balance of power for regional peace.

Competing with China is also a motivational driver for this test. India must be aware of the fact that China is far ahead in strategic technologies, including Hypersonic Glide Vehicles (HGV), Directed-Energy weapons; it is not a wise move from India to compete China as a developing nation with scarce resources for defense technology. India cannot afford to shift huge resources on theoretical scenarios like “Star Wars”.

Though, India is apparently committed to global efforts in mitigating arms race of outer space it has been deliberately supported by the United States to play the leading role in it’s South Asia’s strategy. United States is leading from behind in an attempt to contain China and India naturally serves US’s agenda.

India has always been granted special privileges by the US, we have seen in the case of Iranian sanctions when the United States saved India’s billions of rupees invested in Iran. In this strategic complex scenario, Pakistan must work with China to balance this disequilibrium. Pakistan-China axis naturally balances the US-India axis in South Asia. Pakistan has already launched its Remote Sensing Satellite PRSS-1from China on 9th July 2018.

Read more: India launches pint-sized satellite designed by students

India’s test should be taken as a motivation by the engineers in Pakistan’s SUPARCO, National Systems, and MTC. In realpolitik, it is essential to attain the balance of power for regional peace. Thus, Pakistan should work with China to make its own offensive system as a deterrent against India. Only this way this balance of power will be achieved.

Sabtain Ahmed Dar is pursuing his M Phil in International Relations from Department of Political Science, Punjab University. His area of study is Israeli geopolitics and he has written a thesis titled ‘The Clash of Islam and Zionism: The final clash before the End of History’. The views expressed in this article are author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space.