By Niha Masih Niha Masih Foreign correspondent covering India Bio Follow March 27 at 4:51 AM NEW DELHI — Joining the select space club of United States, Russia and China, India became the fourth country in the world to shoot down a low-orbit satellite with a missile, announced Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday.

The Shakti (power) mission lasted just three minutes and the target was blown up in its low earth orbit 186 miles up, he said, describing it as a “proud moment” for the India and purely for defensive purposes.

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“We are not just capable to defend on land, water and air, but now also in space,” said Modi, noting that the technology was developed indigenously.

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The successful test comes amid broader concerns about the readiness of India’s armed forces for today’s battles. It recently engaged Pakistan in its first aerial dogfight in decades, fielding much older aircraft than its rival.

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Parliament a issued report in March 2018 bemoaning the state of the armed forces, noting that normally only a third of military equipment should fall into to the older, “vintage” category.

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“As far as we are concerned, the state today is 68 percent of our equipment is in the vintage category, with just about 24 percent in the current, and 8 percent in the state-of-the-art-category,” the parliamentary committee was told by top military officials, according to the report.

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The United States first tested antisatellite missiles in 1958 while China did it as recently as 2007

The latest feat demonstrates India’s growing ambitions and footprint in space, where its neighbor China is seen as dominant. Last year, the government set aside a budget of $1.43 billion for the country’s first manned mission to space by 2022. The space research organization aims to send a three member team to space for a week. 

Earlier in 2014, India had become the fourth country to send a  satellite to Mars . It cost $74 million, less than the budget of the space movie  “Gravity.”  

Modi tweeted about the upcoming “important message,” an hour before his televised address leading to intense speculation in the media. 

The last time Modi had suddenly addressed the nation was in November 2016 when he announced the ban on 500 and 1000 rupee notes called demonetization, plunging the country’s monetary system into chaos for months

India goes to polls on April 11 in elections that will last a month across this vast nation before the results are declared on May 23. 

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