On March 27, Prime Minister Narendra Modi addressed the nation. In this address, he said that India’s first anti-satellite weapon (A-SAT) was successfully tested. While the people and organisations remained divided on this mission, which was termed as the ‘Shakti Mission’, former Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) Chief VK Saraswat made a stunning revelation. He said that the presentation for A-SAT was made even during the UPA era, but the then government did not give a go ahead.
However, former National Security Advisor (NSA) Shivshankar Menon refuted Saraswat’s claim. In an interview with The Wire, Menon said, “This is the first time I have heard of it. Saraswat never asked me for permission for an A-SAT test.”
Soon after this, Saraswat later clarified that while an informal presentation was made before the then government, no sanctions or approvals were sought.
Confusion over permission
Hailing Mission Shakti, Saraswat had said that India now has the technological capability. Praising the Modi government, he said that the proposal was put forth by Dr G Satheesh Reddy, the present Scientific Advisor to Defence Minister, before Manohar Parrikar when he held the office of Raksha Mantri. The details of the mission were put forward by NSA Ajit Doval to PM Modi, as per Saraswat. “The PM showed the courage and vision to go ahead with the project,” Saraswat said.
When probed on whether a proposal for such project was made before, Saraswat said that during the UPA era, a proposal to ministers and even the NSA (Menon held the office that time), however, neither any response nor financial resources were provided leading to scraping of the program, as reported by Economic Times. He also said that a strong political will was needed for such a mission, further added that diplomatic relationships India has harboured “in the last four years” enabled this mission.
Rebutting Saraswat’s claim, Menon then said that no permission for A-SAT was sought in the first place. He added that while an informal presentation was made, no approval or sanction was sought.
Responding to Menon’s statement, Saraswat while speaking to The Print, said that as per norms then (during UPA era), he as a scientific advisor made the presentation to the then government. “After the presentation, there was no response and as per the practice in those days, if no response is received, we didn’t go ahead with any written request for seeking permission, assuming that there is no such requirement. And hence at that time, we did not pursue further work,” he said. He further clarified that he earlier too mentioned that he did not seek written permission and further added, “to that extent, the statement made by Mr Menon and the position I have stated is exactly the same”.