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Modi: India now a 'space power' after shooting down satellite

By Nicholas Sakelaris
Modi: India now a 'space power' after shooting down satellite
Indian people listen to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi's televised address to the nation Wednesday where he announced a successful anti-satellite missile test. Photo by Sanjeev Gupta/EPA-EFE

March 27 (UPI) -- India successfully shot down a low-orbit satellite, making the country an "established space power," Prime Minister Narendra Modi said in a surprise speech Wednesday.

The leader said India is now in space's "super league" because it's the fourth country to conduct such an operation behind the United States, China and Russia. The capability will "make India stronger, even more secure and will further peace and harmony," he added.

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"Mission Shakti was a highly complex one, conducted at extremely high speed with remarkable precision," Modi tweeted. "It shows the remarkable dexterity of India's outstanding scientists and the success of our space program."

Modi's words were broadcast on television, radio and social media.

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"In the journey of every nation there are moments that bring utmost pride and have an historic impact on generations to come," Modi said. "One such moment is today."

The Anti-Satellite (ASAT) missile test was successful but Modi didn't release any additional details, like who owned the satellite that was shot down. He did say India didn't violate any international laws or treaties.

The announcement comes two weeks before a national election in which Modi's opponents have accused him of using the country's space achievements to score political points.

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"There is no great urgency in conducting and announcing the mission now by a government past its expiry date," West Bengel Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee tweeted. "It seems a desperate oxygen to save the imminent sinking of the BJP boat. We are lodging a complaint with the Election Commission."

Modi had tweeted earlier in the day that he had an "important message" to tell the public, fueling wild speculation about what that could be. Some thought it would have to do rival Pakistan. Tensions have risen between the two countries since a suicide bomber attacked an Indian troop convoy in Kashmir last month.

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