Daily Current Affairs for 27th January 2020

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India showcased A-SAT missile prowess

GS Paper III

Topic: Science and Technology- developments and their applications and effects in everyday life Achievements of Indians in science & technology

Prelims: Mission Shakti

Mains: Difference between Intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) and ASAT missiles.

What’s the News?

India has successfully tested an anti-satellite weapon (ASAT) along with second equipment- the Air Defence Tactical Control Radar (ADTCR) which has suddenly drawn the spotlight on space warfare.


The DRDO has had ASAT capabilities for almost a decade, developed under its Indian Ballistic Missile (BMD) programme; BMD has two kinds of major targets: foreign missiles and satellites. One observer noted that India had successfully tested its anti-missile capabilities first and then proceeded to work on ASAT capabilities, contrary to China, which completed its ASAT tests first before proceeding to the anti-missile systems.


It’s essentially a missile that can destroy or jam an enemy country’s satellite in space. Since most of the communication networks are satellite-based, this can have a disastrous impact on the country whose satellite gets targeted.

The Air Defence Tactical Control Radar (ADTCR):

It is used for volumetric surveillance, detection, tracking and friend/foe identification of aerial targets of different types and transmission of prioritised target data to multiple command posts and weapon systems.

Mission Shakti (controlled ASAT test):

  • The missile does not carry any explosives or other devices. Instead, its smashes into the target satellite and shatter it using its kinetic energy.
  • At this altitude, about 300 km, debris from the collision would fall back to Earth, burning up in the atmosphere in a matter of weeks instead of posing a threat to other satellites. As a result, Mission Shakti is called a controlled ASAT test.

Outer space treaty, 1967:

  • It bars the nations to placing weapons of mass destruction in earth orbit, installing them on the moon or any other celestial body or otherwise stationing them in outer space.
  • The treaty does not prohibit the placement of conventional weapons and kinetic bombardment is allowed.
  • Outer Space Treaty formally known as Treaty on Principles Governing the Activities of States in the Exploration & use of outer space, including the moon and other Celestial bodies.
  • India signed the treaty in 1967 and ratified it in 1982.
  • India had not violated any international law by testing ASAT.
  • The most overarching agreement in this context is the Outer Space Treaty, and while it stresses on the peaceful use of outer space, it doesn’t ban exo-atmospheric ASAT missiles either.

Need of the test:

  • India’s neighbour China already possesses ASAT weapons. Back in 2007, China had tested an ASAT that was capable of shooting down satellites at an altitude of over 800 kilometres in the lower earth orbit (LEO).
  • China has disregarded international criticism and carried out these tests. Hence, it can be argued that today’s test was necessitated by the Chinese postures on ASAT.

Chinese test in 2007 provoked international ire because it destroyed a satellite at a little over 800 km, producing over 14,000 pieces of debris that endangered hundreds of other satellites in its vicinity. The act violated the principles of the Outer Space Treaty.

  • Also, with this test India may have pre-empted possible treaty on space weaponisation, much like the nuclear non-proliferation treaty (NPT), which would have stopped India from demonstrating its ASAT ability in the future and giving the United States, China, and Russia sole ASAT-weapons-state status.

Differences between Intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) and ASAT missiles:

Sr. no. Intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) ASAT missiles
1. Intercepting an ICBM requires three kinds of radar: one each to detect, intercept and fire the rebutting weapon. Satellites at that altitude move at about eight times the speed of sound in the atmosphere, outpacing ICBMs by up to 1 km/
2. An incoming ICBM also follows an inherently unpredictable trajectory that requires response systems with very low reaction times.


A satellite in low-Earth orbit follows a predictable trajectory.

Even a small error so small can affect an ICBM and throw an ASAT missile off course, potentially towards a different satellite.


Significance of the Test:

  • India had already established itself as a space power, a demonstration of its military prowess in space was necessary for regional peace. Until now, only USA, Russia and China had operational ASAT systems.
  • It can even undertake pellet cloud attacks on enemy’s low orbit satellites.
  • Other ASAT capabilities include cyber-attacks on space systems, Electro-Magnetic Pulse (EMP) explosion devices, directed energy (laser based) weapons and targeted missiles for destruction of satellites to sabotage the enemy’s military operations.
  • Keeping ASAT systems ready can allow India to knock enemy micro-satellites down as a countermeasure.
  • The test was done to verify that India has the capability to safeguard our space assets.


Nagardhan excavations

Paper: I

For Prelims: Archaeological Survey of India.

For Mains: Indian Culture – Salient aspects of Art Forms, Literature and Architecture from ancient to modern times.

Context of News:

  • Recent archaeological excavations at Nagardhan in Ramtek taluka, near Nagpur, have provided range of information about 3rd to 5th
  • At Nagardhan near Nagpur, recent excavations have brought new clarity on the life, religious affiliations and trade practices of the Vakataka dynasty, which ruled parts of Central and South India centuries ago.

Archaeological Survey of India:

  • The Archaeological Survey of India is an Indian government agency attached to the Ministry of Culture that is responsible for archaeological research and the conservation and preservation of cultural monuments in the country. It was founded in 1861 by Alexander Cunningham who also became its first Director-General.
  • The Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), under the Ministry of Culture, is the premier organization for the archaeological researches and protection of the cultural heritage of the nation. Maintenance of ancient monuments and archaeological sites and remains of national importance is the prime concern of the ASI.

Findings of Excavation:

  • Excavations provided concrete evidence on the life, religious affiliations and trade practices of the Vakataka dynasty that ruled parts of Central and South India between the third and fifth centuries. After a 1,500 year-old sealing was excavated for the first time, a new study in Numismatic Digest has tried to understand the Vakataka rule under Queen Prabhavatigupta.
  • Earlier results from the excavations here had traced evidence in the form of ceramics, ear studs of glass, antiquities, bowls and pots, a votive shrine and tank, an iron chisel, a stone depicting a deer, and terracotta bangles. Some terracotta objects even depicted images of gods, animals and humans, along with amulets, scotches, wheels, skin rubbers and spindle whorls.
  • An intact idol of Lord Ganesha, which had no ornaments adorned, too was found from the site.

Why excavation is important?

  • Understanding Vakatakas and Shaivite Dynasty:
  • Very little was known about the Vakatakas, the Shaivite rulers of Central India between the third and fifth centuries. All that was known about the dynasty, believed to hail from the Vidarbha region, was largely through some literature and copperplates.
  • There were assumptions that the excavated site of Nagardhan is the same as Nandhivardhan, the capital city of the eastern branch of the Vakatakas. It was after archaeological evidence from here that Nagardhan was understood to have served as a capital of the Vakataka kingdom.

Why are the findings on Queen Prabhavatigupta significant?

  • The Vakataka rulers were known to have forged several matrimonial alliances with other dynasties of their times. One of the key alliances was with Prabhavatigupta of the mighty Gupta dynasty, which was then ruling north India. The Guptas, researchers say, were way more powerful than the Vakatakas.
  • After marrying Vakataka king Rudrasena II, Prabhavatigupta enjoyed the position of Chief Queen. When she took over the Vakataka kingdom, after the sudden demise of Rudrasena II, her stature as a woman Vakataka ruler rose significantly.
  • Scholars say Queen Prabhavatigupta was among a handful of women rulers in India to have reigned over any kingdom during ancient times. Also, there had been no evidence so far of any successor female ruler within the Vakataka dynasty, the researchers suggest.

Why is the sign of Vaishnava affiliation important?

  • The Vakataka rulers followed the Shaiva sect of Hinduism while the Guptas were staunch Vaishnavites. Excavators say that many religious structures indicating affinity to the Vaishnava sect, and found in Ramtek, were built during the reign of Queen Prabhavatigupta. While she was married into a family that belonged to the Shaiva sect, the queen’s powers allowed her to choose a deity of worship, that is, Lord Vishnu.
  • Some of the temples identified as Keval Narasihma, Rudra Narasimha and the one dedicated to Varaha could be traced to Ramtek, and showcase strong affinity to the incarnations of Lord Vishnu. None of these religious structures was, however, present here until the Queen took the throne.

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