Noted missile scientist VK Saraswat has claimed that the "building blocks" for today's Mission Shakti project existed since 2005, but lack of initiative on the part of the former UPA government prevented such an anti-satellite missile test from being conducted over the years.
"A large number of the building blocks used in the 2005 Ballistic Missile Defence Test were used in the A-SAT programme too. But the nation, at the time, lacked the will to push for a programme of this kind. So, clearances for performing this kind of a demonstration was not readily available," said Dr Saraswat, who used to head the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) before being made a member of the Modi government's Niti Aayog.
The missile scientist claimed that the test would help secure India a foothold in space when it finally emerges as the "fourth dimension of warfare". And then there was the matter of securing the 48 satellites the country has already launched into space so far. "Tomorrow, when more and more functions shift from the ground to our space assets, we will need to protect them. Any kind of threat to our satellites has to be addressed by creating deterrents," Dr Saraswat said.
The missile scientist also spoke of the possibility of a rogue nation wreaking havoc in space someday in the future. "While I hope that such a trigger point does not happen, at least now we have the means to give a befitting answer whenever our space assets face any threat. India has achieved that capability today," he said.
Dr Saraswat claimed that discussions on the subject were taken up earlier also, but to no avail. "After we completed the Agni 5 launch in 2012, some suggested coming up with an anti-satellite missile technology. But we were made to feel that the Agni 5 launch was enough, and nothing more was needed for the strategic defence of the country."
According to the former DRDO chief, that changed five years ago. "It takes great initiative, courage and conviction for a country to develop capabilities for the fourth dimension of warfare. I think Prime Minister Narendra Modi demonstrated that," he said.
In a television address to the nation on Wednesday, PM Modi said a missile had shot down an Indian satellite in space, making India only the fourth country after the United States, Russia and China to have that capability.
Anti-satellite weapons can be used to target enemy satellites, blinding them or disrupting communications, or to provide a technology base for intercepting ballistic missiles.