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Modi criticized for his theatrics & timing of ASAT launch


News Desk |

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has come under a sharp wave of criticism over his televised address on India’s “Surgical strike in space”. Indian opposition leaders, including Mamata Banerjee and Rahul Gandhi, alongside political analysts and activists, are criticizing Modi for “dramatizing” this achievement before the upcoming election, and “taking credit for Indian space scientists’ work”.

Yesterday, in a rare televised presidential address, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced that India’s Anti-Satellite missile system shot down a live satellite in space. Modi boasted that India had now become the fourth country to launch a surgical strike in space, joining the leagues of superpowers, China, Russia, and the US. Prime Minister Modi lauded this surgical strike as the “Mission Shakti”, and claimed that success in this “difficult operation” has marked a proud day for India.

However, opposition leaders and analysts have criticized Modi for dramatizing and announcing this capability weeks before the Lok Sabha elections to reap more success in his election campaign. He has also been accused of taking credit for the hard work of the Indian space scientists.

The statement urged all nations to act with responsibility and called for establishing international space laws with a view to ensuring that no one threatens peaceful activities and applications of space technologies for socio-economic development.

In a series of strongly-worded tweets, CM Bengal Mamata Banerjee regarded Modi’s announcement as a “gross violation” of the pre-election code of conduct. She tweeted, “Today’s announcement is yet another limitless drama and publicity mongering by Modi desperately trying to reap political benefits at the time of the election. This is a gross violation of Model Code of Conduct.”

Mamata Banerjee noted that scientific research and development is a “continuous process” that takes several years to demonstrate fruitful results, and while the scientists and researchers behind this project were the ones who deserve recognition and appraise, she criticized, “Modi, as usual, likes to take credit for everything”.

Read more: Celebrating surgical strikes that never happened- Dr. Zafar Nawaz Jaspal

Banerjee further noted that the BJP is desperate to boost its election campaign, given the ongoing crisis of widespread unemployment. She tweeted, “There is no great urgency in conducting and announcing the mission now by a government past its expiry date. It seems desperate oxygen to save the imminent sinking of the BJP boat. We are lodging a complaint with the Election Commission.”

Rahul Gandhi, the President of Congress, tweeted in praise of the achievement of the Defence Research and Development Organization, and then, he took a jibe at Modi, adding, “I would also like to wish the PM a very happy World Theatre Day.”

The Communist Party of India lodged a formal appeal to the Election Commission later yesterday, protesting that the dramatic speech given by Prime Minister Modi was in violation of the Model Code of Conduct. Indian media quotes the letter written by the Marxist party, “This announcement comes in the midst of the ongoing election campaign where the PM himself is a candidate. This is clearly a violation of the Model Code of Conduct.”

Space Superpower: Modi’s New Achievement after Alleged Balakot Strikes

Senior Congress leader Ahmed Patel took to Twitter to remind Modi and BJP that the ASAT programme was initiated by the UPA government and even shared a news report from 2012 to highlight that the programme had begun earlier under former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and had now reached its completion.

In a rather sly reference to the hour-long televised speech by Prime Minister Modi, the FO’s statement remarked, “Boasting of such capabilities is reminiscent of Don Quixote’s tilting against windmills”.

Explaining the dynamics of how projects of scientific research and development take years to evolve and demonstrate their fruition, Patel took a jibe at the BJP leadership. He tweeted, “My friends in the BJP find it hard to understand how successful projects evolve. That’s because the concept of teamwork is alien to them”

Akhilesh Yadav, Chief Minister of UP and socialist leader, pointed out that through an hour-long televised announcement of the “surgical space strike”, Prime Minister Modi has attempted to divert attention away from BJP’s failure in terms of unemployment, rural crisis and women’s security. Yadav tweeted, “Today @narendramodi got himself an hour of free TV & divert nation’s attention away from issues on ground — #Unemployment #RuralCrisis & #WomensSecurity — by pointing at the sky.”

Senior Indian journalist and political analyst Shekar Gupta observed that the BJP government has used the A-SAT launch as a “bold strategic move” weeks before the election is due to begin. He noted, “PM making such a big deal of it personally shows poll-eve desperation we hadn’t yet detected/suspected.”  He further added that that now that the media frenzy over the alleged Balakot strike had faded, Modi needed a new defence achievement to boost his electoral profile. Gupta tweeted, “It’s just a frantic new national security headline as Balakot has faded in a month.”

Ashok Swain, professor of Peace and Conflict Research at Uppsala University, Sweden, noted that Modi has progressed from touting the alleged Balakot strike towards dramatizing achievements undertaken by Indian in 2012 and publicizing them as his own. Swain tweeted, “MIGs getting shot down by Pakistani Air Force, Modi is doing drama by shooting down a small satellite with long acquired technology!”

Earlier yesterday, Pakistan’s Foreign Office had issued a strongly worded condemnation of militarizing the arena of space, which is the “common heritage of mankind”, without directly naming India. The statement urged all nations to act with responsibility and called for establishing international space laws with a view to ensuring that no one threatens peaceful activities and applications of space technologies for socio-economic development.

Read more: Modi rekindled ‘imaginary’ surgical strikes debate in London

Without directing naming India or its ASAT launch, the statement criticized nations boasting such capabilities to work towards eliminating military threats to outer space. It read, “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.”

In a rather sly reference to the hour-long televised speech by Prime Minister Modi, the FO’s statement remarked, “Boasting of such capabilities is reminiscent of Don Quixote’s tilting against windmills”.

Mina Jahangir with additional input by News Desk.

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