International concerns over the fallout of India's landmark anti-satellite missile test "Mission Shakti" have been addressed, Pankaj Saran, the Deputy National Security Advisor of India, told NDTV on Tuesday. The anti-satellite weapon's test had left a trail of debris that posed a threat to other projects like the International Space Station, experts had warned. But Mr Saran said last month's test had put India in an elite league of nations.
Excerpts from the interview:
NDTV: Have the concerns on debris been assuaged and how soon will the debris from the Mission Shakti test be risk-free for the International Space Station?
PANKAJ SARAN: Yes, I think the concerns over debris have been assuaged. We have been in touch with all the important, significant partners internationally and they are fully aware of what we have done in terms of the orbit that we chose in terms of the technology that we used and in terms of our own scientific simulations studies with regard to debris so I would say that the feedback that we are getting and we have got is that they understand what we have done and they recognise that we have strived to minimise the problem and threat from space debris. In so far as when the debris will decay and return back to Earth, we have been told by the Chairman DRDO that his studies show this is only a matter of weeks when all the debris would be back on Earth.
NDTV: He also mentioned that the ten day period is over, does that convince you now that there may not be that much risk to the International Space Station?
PANKAJ SARAN: You see he mentioned, that it would take few weeks, now that test was done on March 27, today is the April 6, so already 10 odd days have gone by so we have to give him a another few weeks to ensure that the debris falls back and this I think a technical question which needs to be addressed but we are confident that about what he has told us and we have full faith in his judgement on this matter. In so far as the International Space Station is concerned, we are in touch with the concerned authorities there. I have to tell you that India has always conducted itself as a responsible nation and we are a recognised and respected space power and we have 49 satellites or space assets currently in orbit so there is no one who is more concerned about the safety and the usage, peaceful usage of space than we are.
NDTV: Also, some concern about the timing was this the right time was it necessary to do at this time what were the pressing concerns global and domestic?
PANKAJ SARAN: I think we have answered the timing question in the press conference today that was one of the objectives of explaining to the media, as to how the timing was decided. You have heard that the initial discussions took place between the DRDO and the political leadership in 2014, the final go ahead given to the DRDO in 2016, it took them that much time to master the technology, to be confident that it will succeed and that is all that is there to it.
NDTV: Are you satisfied with what has been given to you as part of results?
PANKAJ SARAN: Hundred Percent. It is one of the most complex and sophisticated technology demonstrations that we have seen in recent times in India.
NDTV: Ready for deployment?
PANKAJ SARAN: I said that this is a technology demonstrator and I would only restrict myself to repeating that this was a technology demonstrator and this was our only intention.
NDTV: There is much concern about other countries having space forces and a space command, we have only a very limited attention on that, do you think that the time has come for a full-fledged space command, inter-services space command that looks after India's space assets and protects them?
PANKAJ SARAN: You know for the moment I would say mission and the objectives of the mission have been fulfilled and that objective was to demonstrate our technology and our capability, for the rest we will have to just wait and see.
NDTV: Do you think this test tells people that India is serious about protecting its very large constellation of nearly four dozen satellites?
PANKAJ SARAN: I think so, there are very few countries in the world who have a space program which is bigger than ours and I think we need to as nation complement our scientists and compliment those who are working day in and day out to allow us to live the lives that we do whether it is for the economy, for security for navigation, for communication. This does not happen for free, and the program for the future is even more ambitious so if today we have 49 satellites we are looking at almost a 100 by the year 2025. Now you have to have the technology, not only to throw up these satellites in orbit but also to defend them.
NDTV: So deterrence determined, the enemy should be worried?
PANKAJ SARAN: I would not put it in such dramatic terms, I would just say we want to be sure that our assets are safe and secure because sometimes your biggest success can also become your biggest vulnerability.
NDTV: So are we safer?
PANKAJ SARAN: We are certainly more secure from the point of view the satisfaction that we have the technology which we need to develop if we are to become a space power of the kind that we aspire to be.
NDTV: You are the Deputy National Security Advisor, does this now give us a position on the high table that we will not be left out like we were left out with the NPT?
PANKAJ SARAN: We were always on the high table, now we will be on an even higher table.