There are some who question the relevance of space activities in a developing nation. To us, there is no ambiguity of purpose. We do not have the fantasy of competing with the economically advanced nations in the exploration of the moon or the planets or manned space-flight. But we are convinced that if we are to play a meaningful role nationally, and in the community of nations, we must be second to none in the application of advanced technologies to the real problems of man and society”. – Dr Vikram Sarabhai while justifying the Space Programme of Bharat
The scientists of Bharat have registered another magnificent achievement, and the political leadership has again demonstrated its strong will to back every effort that would ensure Bharat’s presence in the comity of nations with not just moral but actual power, the Shakti. The successful testing of the Anti-Satellite (ASAT) missile is a landmark feat of Bharat and its scientific and technological might. In the election season, unfortunately, this moment of national pride has also broiled into the battle of credit. We as voters should learn a lesson from the scientists which can become a guiding force for us while voting.
In the initial days, scientists had to fight hard to prove their mettle and significance of the research they were undertaking. As a developing country, political leadership naturally believed in utilising economic resources for addressing the basic needs of the citizens, considering investment in science research and initiatives like Defence or Space programmes was considered as a luxury. We have travelled a long way since then. Despite frugal resources, scientists did their best to develop indigenous technology and kept continuing with their pursuit with the political leadership. Especially after the first attempt to break the nuclear apartheid imposed by the Non-Proliferation Treaty, political leadership also realised the significance of technological power, especially while sitting at the negotiating table at international level. In the last few years, whether in space programme or in the case of defence modernisation, political leadership has given a free hand to the scientist to carry out their experiments and scientific fraternity has also responded plosively by giving us, in most cases, more than what was expected.
The elite organisation of Bharat, Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), successfully conducted an Anti-Satellite (ASAT) missile test ‘Mission Shakti’ from Dr APJ Abdul Kalam Island in Odisha on March 27, 2019. As described in the official release, “a DRDO-developed Ballistic Missile Defence (BMD) Interceptor Missile successfully engaged an Indian orbiting target satellite in Low Earth Orbit (LEO) in a ‘Hit to Kill’ mode”, accomplishing all its objectives. This was a three-stage missile with two solid rocket boosters enabled to track data from range sensors. Bharat is the forth country to achieve this landmark after the US, Russia and China.
As per the international regime, ASAT (Anti-Satellite) is defined as “any capabilities aimed at destroying or disabling space assets for any reason, whether military or civilian, offensive or defensive”. This one is also a successful amalgamation of Space and Defence technology, bringing the technological innovations by ISRO and DRDO together. Though Bharat has possessed the anti-missile technology for several years, it needed the political go-ahead to actually test it in live conditions. Though the fruition of the mission took place on March 27, 2019, the preparation for the testing must have consumed at least two years after getting the green signal from political leadership. So the demonstration of capacity developed with the Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM) to protect our national assets in the outer space and evolve a deterrence mechanism in the event of a space war were the key objectives, similar to the Pokhran tests. Bharat has done that before the emergence of any regime in international relations is a creditable accomplishment. Now, whenever such regime will be proposed, Bharat will be speaking from the position of power.
This mission has once again proven the capability of indigenous weapon system and the passion and persistence of our scientists for the future needs of the nation. Whether political leadership is convinced or not, scientists continued their endeavour aiming the stated objectives of ISRO and DRDO, ‘Harnessing space technology for national development’ and ‘make India prosperous by establishing world class science and technology base and provide our Defence Services decisive edge’. It is the attitude of people like Homi Bhabha, Vikrma Sarabhai, Dr APJ Kalam etc that rooted in the conviction for harnessing the indigenous Shakti with Bhakti for Bharat and science enabled us to strive forward. Many times this conviction also pushed the political leadership to stand by them, as happened in the Nehru years.
As voters, we should also think about the future of Bharat and what is best for the future generations while voting. Instead of getting into rhetorics and sloganeering of yesteryears, who has the vision and constructive programme for the Bharat should be our primary consideration. Who can stand by the conviction of the masses is the key. In a democracy, not just by the people or of the people but ‘for people’ is equally, perhaps more important aspect.
Therefore, on the occasion of Varsh Pratipada, the festival of New Year and New Aspirations, we are presenting the issues and aspirations that matter ‘for Bharat’. How far the narratives build in the election campaign are relevant to the people, is for the voters to judge. If we make the resolve for building future Bharat on the right combination of ‘harnessing Shakti’ while ‘practising Bhakti’ for Bharat, we will be in a better position to vote judiciously.