Skip to main content

US Air Force expert smells regional security threat following Chandrayaan mission

Counterview Desk
A United States Air Force expert, writing on India’s Chandrayaan -2 mission, has expressed the apprehension that Indian moon probe’s “failure” won’t stop an Asian space race that “threatens regional security.” Affiliated with the US Air Force School of Advanced Air and Space Studies, Wendy Whitman Cobb, who is Professor of Strategy and Security Studies, believes like other space powers, India may be “seeking to improve its technology”, but advances can “also bring greater security concerns.”
Currently, admits Cobb, “These efforts have been primarily civilian and peaceful in nature.” However, India’s turn toward the military uses of space, so much so that lately it has been developing its own military satellites providing services such as remote sensing, tracking and communications “with greater frequency” has begun to “concern” the neighbours.
In her disclosure statement to an article published in the e-journal “The Conversation” Cobb, however, states that whatever she says her own views and does not “necessarily" reflect the views of the Department of Defense or any of its components.

Text

On Sept. 7, India’s Chandrayaan-2 lunar mission deployed its Vikram lander for an attempted landing at the Moon’s south pole. Communications with the lander were lost just minutes prior to the scheduled landing. Recent imaging suggests that Vikram may have survived the landing intact, but it might be unable to communicate. No matter the outcome, the mission has already proved successful as Chandrayaan-2 continues to orbit the Moon.
Chandrayaan-2 adds to the list of India’s recent accomplishments in space. This probe was sent on a scientific mission, but India’s achievements in space include other military developments, all of which reflect a challenge to China. Though some are warning of a space race between the U.S. and China, I suggest the real space race is happening in Asia.
This year alone, both China and India have landed, or attempted to land, probes on the Moon. These types of missions are one way to achieve international prestige. But they also peacefully demonstrate capabilities that could be used in conflict. From my perspective as a space policy analyst, India’s space activities, combined with its escalating tensions with Pakistan, contribute to increasing regional tension.

Indian space achievements and capabilities

Most international observers have focused, with good reason, on India’s nuclear ambitions. Like its nuclear program, India’s space program traces its origins to the 1950s, though the Indian Space Research Organization was not formed until 1969. Early on, the Indian Space Research Organization focused on design and fabrication of satellites. Later, in the late 1970s and early 1980s, it concentrated on the development of its own rockets. Since then, India has developed several reliable and powerful rockets including its Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle and Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle.
India has used its expertise to foster a growing commercial space sector. It sells extra space on its Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle to commercial companies, which has generated significant income for the Indian Space Research Organization. India recently approved the creation of a private institution, NewSpace India Limited, to facilitate technology transfers and market space-centric industries.
India’s first Moon mission, the orbiter Chandrayaan-1, launched in 2008, contributed to the discovery of water on the Moon. In 2014, the Mars Orbiter Mission made India the fourth entity to send a mission to the Red Planet after the U.S., Russia and the European Space Agency. The ultimate goal of the current Chandrayaan-2 mission was to deploy a lander and rover on the Moon’s south pole to further explore potential water deposits. India also strives to launch its own astronauts into space by 2022.
These efforts have been primarily civilian and peaceful in nature. India’s turn toward the military uses of space began only in the 1990s. With greater frequency India is developing its own military satellites providing services such as remote sensing, tracking and communications. India’s missiles are benefitted by technology developed at ISRO and their increasing capabilities reflects their concerns with not just Pakistan, but China.
Since the establishment of the Chinese communist state, conflict between the two states has come on several fronts. There have been several clashes over disputed territorial boundaries and, as rising economic powers governed by different ideologies, India and China continue to battle for regional and international preeminence.
 India’s missiles are benefitted by technology developed at ISRO and their increasing capabilities reflects their concerns with not just Pakistan, but China
China’s own accomplishments have served as motivation for Indian developments. For instance, China’s nuclear tests in 1964 encouraged the Indian nuclear program, which conducted its own nuclear tests in 1974. In space, China has expanded its scientific, civilian and military activities with an active human spaceflight program and its own program of lunar missions. In January of 2019, Chang'e-4 successfully landed on the far side of the Moon and just recently discovered an unknown “gel-like” substance.

Asian power balance

India continues to feel pressure from its Chinese neighbour. Following China’s anti-satellite test in 2008, India began development of its own space weapons. In March 2019, India successfully tested an anti-satellite weapon: a missile, launched from the ground, that destroyed one of its own satellites in low Earth orbit. Like previous anti-satellite tests performed by the U.S., Russia and China, there were immediate concerns about debris. Despite this, India clearly intended to send a message to China and others, signaling their ability to not only protect their own satellites but destroy threatening Chinese ones as well.
These more aggressive moves fit in with other recent Indian actions. In August, India withdrew the special status of Kashmir that largely allowed the region to set its own laws. India then deployed troops to the region, arrested several hundred Kashmiri politicians and moved to sever communication links between Kashmir and the rest of the region.
These actions, along with India’s space activities, do not go unnoticed by Pakistan. As analysts Mian Zahid Hussain and Raja Qaiser Ahmed write, “Pakistan feels more insecure under India’s low earth orbit satellites and dominant surveillance and espionage capabilities.” This insecurity, combined with India’s behavior toward Kashmir, could prompt Pakistan to develop anti-satellite weapons and other space technologies. If this starts an arms race, it would introduce more instability in an already delicate region.
In a speech following the loss of communication with the Vikram lander, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi said, “We are proud of our space program and scientists, their hard work and determination. (They) ensure a better life, not only for our citizens, but also for other nations.” Like other space powers, India is seeking to improve its technology and way of life, but advances can also bring greater security concerns.

Comments

TRENDING

Girl child education: 20 major states 'score' better than Gujarat, says GoI report

By Rajiv Shah
A Government of India report, released last month, has suggested that “model” Gujarat has failed to make any progress vis-à-vis other states in ensuring that girls continue to remain enrolled after they leave primary schools. The report finds that, in the age group 14-17, Gujarat’s 71% girls are enrolled at the secondary and higher secondary level, which is worse than 20 out of 22 major states for which data have been made available.

Congress 'promises' cancellation of Adani power project: Jharkhand elections

Counterview Desk
Pointing out that people's issues take a backseat in Jharkhand's 2019 assembly elections, the state's civil rights organization, the Jharkhand Janadhikar Mahasabha, a coalition of activists and people’s organisations, has said that political parties have largely ignored in their electoral manifestos the need to implement the fifth schedule of the Constitution in a predominantly tribal district.

Hindutva founders 'borrowed' Nazi, fascist idea of one flag, one leader, one ideology

By Shamsul Islam*
With the unleashing of the reign of terror by the RSS/BJP rulers against working-class, peasant organizations, women organizations, student movements, intellectuals, writers, poets and progressive social/political activists, India also witnessed a series of resistance programmes organized by the pro-people cultural organizations in different parts of the country. My address in some of these programmes is reproduced here... 
***  Before sharing my views on the tasks of artists-writers-intellectuals in the times of fascism, let me briefly define fascism and how it is different from totalitarianism. Totalitarianism is political concept, a dictatorship of an individual, family or group which prohibits opposition in any form, and exercises an extremely high degree of control over public and private life. It is also described as authoritarianism.
Whereas fascism, while retaining all these repressive characteristics, also believes in god-ordained superiority of race, cultur…

Gujarat refusal to observe Maulana Azad's birthday as Education Day 'discriminatory'

By Our Representative
The Gujarat government decision not to celebrate the National Education Day on !monday has gone controversial. Civil society organizations have particularly wondered whether the state government is shying away from the occasion, especially against the backdrop of "deteriorating" level of education in Gujarat.

Ex-World Bank chief economist doubts spurt in India's ease of doing business rank

By Rajiv Shah
This is in continuation of my previous blog where I had quoted from a commentary which top economist Prof Kaushik Basu had written in the New York Times (NYT) a little less than a month ago, on November 6, to be exact. He recalled this article through a tweet on November 29, soon after it was made known that India's growth rate had slumped (officially!) to 4.5%.

With RSS around, does India need foreign enemy to undo its democratic-secular fabric?

By Shamsul Islam*
Many well-meaning liberal and secular political analysts are highly perturbed by sectarian policy decisions of RSS/BJP rulers led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, especially after starting his second inning. They are vocal in red-flagging lynching incidents, policies of the Modi government on Kashmir, the National Register of Citizens (NRC), the demand for 'Bharat Ratna' to Savarkar who submitted 6-7 mercy petitions to the British masters (getting remission of 40 years out of 50 years' sentence), and the murder of constitutional norms in Goa, Karnataka and now in Maharashtra.

Rushdie, Pamuk, 260 writers tell Modi: Aatish episode casts chill on public discourse

Counterview Desk
As many as 260 writers, journalists, artists, academics and activists across the world, including Salman Rushdie, British Indian novelist, Orhan Pamuk, Turkish novelist and recipient of the 2006 Nobel Prize in literature, and Margaret Atwood, Canadian poet and novelist, have called upon Prime Minister Narendra Modi to review the decision to strip British Indian writer Aatish Taseer of his overseas Indian citizenship.

Post-Balakot, danger that events might spiral out of control is 'greater, not less'

By Tapan Bose*
The fear of war in South Asia is increasing. Tensions are escalating between India and Pakistan after the Indian defence minister's announcement in August this year that India may revoke its current commitment to only use nuclear weapons in retaliation for a nuclear attack, known as ‘no first use’. According to some experts who are watching the situation the risk of a conflict between the two countries has never been greater since they both tested nuclear weapons in 1998.

Worrying signs in BJP: Modi, Shah begin 'cold-shouldering' Gujarat CM, party chief

By RK Misra*
The political developments in neighbouring Maharashtra where a Shiv Sena-NCP-Congress government assumed office has had a trickle down effect in Gujarat with both the ruling BJP and the Congress opposition going into revamp mode.

'Favouring' tribals and ignoring Adivasis? Behind coercion of India's aborigines

By Mohan Guruswamy*
Tribal people account for 8.2% of India’s population. They are spread over all of India’s States and Union Territories. Even so they can be broadly classified into three groupings. The first grouping consists of populations who predate the Indo-Aryan migrations. These are termed by many anthropologists as the Austro-Asiatic-speaking Australoid people.