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

New Odia CM's tribal heritage 'sets him apart' from Hindutva Brahminical norms

By Bhabani Shankar Nayak*  Mohan Charan Majhi took the oath as the new Chief Minister of Odisha following the electoral defeat of the BJD led by Naveen Patnaik, who served as Chief Minister for twenty-four years. The new Chief Minister is the son of a security guard and a four-time MLA who hails from the remote village of Raikala in the Keonjhar district. He belongs to the Santali tribe and comes from a working-class family. Such achievements and political mobilities are possible only in a democratic society. Majhi’s leadership even in the form of symbolic representation in a democracy deserves celebration.

Pellet gun fire severely injures Dalit worker off Bangladesh border

By Kirity Roy*  This is regarding an incident of firing pellets by the Border Security Force (BSF) personnel attached with Panchadoji Border Outpost of ‘E’ Company of 90 BSF Battalion on a Schedule Caste youth of village Parmananda under Dinhata Police Station of Cooch Behar district of West Bengal. The victim was severely injured and one portion of his face became disfigured due to pellet firing by the BSF.

Sanction to persecute Arundhati Roy under UAPA politically motivated: PUCL

Counterview Network  Top human rights group, People’s Union for Civil Liberties, has demanded that the authorities should immediately withdraw the prosecution against top author Arundhati Roy and Dr Sheikh Showkat Hussain, a Kashmir academic, under the " unconstitutional"  Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act  (UAPA), calling the Delhi  Lieutenant-Governor nod for the Delhi police move "politically motivated".

What stops Kavach? Why no time to focus on common trains meant for common people?

By Atanu Roy  A goods train rammed into Kanchenjunga Express on 17th June morning in North Bengal. This could have been averted if the time tested anti-collision system (Kavach) was in place. 

A Hindu alternative to Valentine's Day? 'Shiv-Parvati was first love marriage in Universe'

By Rajiv Shah*   The other day, I was searching on Google a quote on Maha Shivratri which I wanted to send to someone, a confirmed Shiv Bhakt, quite close to me -- with an underlying message to act positively instead of being negative. On top of the search, I chanced upon an article in, imagine!, a Nashik Corporation site which offered me something very unusual. 

Lip-service on World Environment Day vs 'watered-down' eco-safeguards

By Shankar Sharma*  Just a few days ago, the world remembered the routinely forgotten global environment on the occasion of World Environment Day, briefly though, maybe just for the day. There were reports of a few high profile ceremonies in different parts of the country, including a few in New Delhi. Prime Minister Narendra Modi reportedly asked the people of our country to plant one tree per each person as a mark of respect/ gratitude for our mothers.

Swami Vivekananda's views on caste and sexuality were 'painfully' regressive

By Bhaskar Sur* Swami Vivekananda now belongs more to the modern Hindu mythology than reality. It makes a daunting job to discover the real human being who knew unemployment, humiliation of losing a teaching job for 'incompetence', longed in vain for the bliss of a happy conjugal life only to suffer the consequent frustration.