With the Indian elections only weeks away many in the Pakistani government were prepared for another military misadventure by a Prime Minister intent on exploiting anti-Pakistan rhetoric – the pyrrhic nature of the airstrikes, with the capture of a pilot, would certainly not satisfy Modi and his Bharatiya Janta Party (BJP). That next step was witnessed on Wednesday, and to the collective relief of the region it was not another foolish military expedition. However, it continues Indian posturing, and sets the stage for a different kind of escalation in the region.

On Wednesday, the Indian Defense Research and Development Organization, (DRDO) launched a missile that destroyed one of the country’s own satellites in low Earth orbit. The missile test made India just the fourth country to successfully destroy a satellite in orbit, following the US, Russia, and most recently China. While the test is certainly an achievement, the theatrics that accompanied the announcement made it abundantly clear that the elections were the main focus. A cryptic promise of a national address by Modi, followed after a period of suspense by a speech extolling India’s strength and resolve makes full use of the test to fan the fires of nationalism and rake in the votes in the process. This exercise becomes even more farcical once one considers that India was reliably known to possess this capability since 2012; the BJP made a show out of it just before the polls.

Beyond such gimmicks the regional effect of the test will be limited in the short run, but it does potentially set up an arms race in a new frontier; with Pakistan, China, and India all involved. While Pakistan in a recent meeting of the Pakistan-Russia Consultative Group on Strategic Stability discussed non-militarisation of outer space and the test drew criticism from quarters around the world for contributing to dangerous side-effect of space debris, until firm rules for combat in space are drawn, states will keep escalating regional balances in newer directions.