Around noon, when Mr. Modi was set to address the nation, the streets of New Delhi, the capital, grew uncharacteristically quiet. Many people ducked inside shops to watch TV.
Saurav Jha, the editor in chief of “Delhi Defence Review,” an online defense related magazine, said that successfully shooting down a satellite was a major achievement.
“It’s as significant as India’s first nuclear blast,” he said.
India has been steadily advancing its space program since its first satellite launch in 1975. It joined a manned space mission with Russia in 1984 and launched a Mars orbiter in 2013. This December, India sent its heaviest communication satellite so far, weighing nearly 5,000 pounds, into space.
A big motivation clearly is China. As China has stepped up its satellite launches and space probes, India has been trying to catch up.
The test, Mr. Jha said, was “very much the part of the India-China rivalry.”
Another factor may have been archrival Pakistan. Last year, China helped Pakistan launch a remote sensing satellite. India’s test showed it could blast apart the Pakistani eye in the sky, turning it into space garbage.
This could make the bitter regional contest between India and Pakistan even more dangerous. Before this test, the two militaries were widely viewed as comparable. Each side has been reluctant to start a major conflict, fearing that the other could stage a devastating counter attack.
But some analysts said that if India has now gained superiority in ballistic missiles, it might be able to stage a pre-emptive attack on Pakistan’s satellites, or even Pakistan itself. That could unsettle the longstanding doctrine of mutually assured destruction that both countries have followed, and put Pakistan even more on edge.