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

Savarkar 'criminally betrayed' Netaji and his INA by siding with the British rulers

By Shamsul Islam*
RSS-BJP rulers of India have been trying to show off as great fans of Netaji. But Indians must know what role ideological parents of today's RSS/BJP played against Netaji and Indian National Army (INA). The Hindu Mahasabha and RSS which always had prominent lawyers on their rolls made no attempt to defend the INA accused at Red Fort trials.

RSS supremo Deoras 'supported' Emergency, but Indira, Sanjay Gandhi 'didn't respond'

By Shamsul Islam*
National Emergency was imposed on the country by then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi on June 25-26, 1975, and it lasted for 19 months. This period is considered as ''dark times' for Indian democratic polity. Indira Gandhi claimed that due to Jaiprakash Narayan's call to the armed forces to disobey the 'illegal' orders of Congress rulers had created a situation of anarchy and there was danger to the existence of Indian Republic so there was no alternative but to impose Emergency under article 352 of the Constitution.

Letter to friends, mentors: Coming together of class, communal, corona viruses 'scary'

By Prof (Dr) Mansee Bal Bhargava*
COVID greetings from Ahmedabad to dear mentors and friends from around the world…
I hope you are keeping well and taking care of yourself besides caring for the people around you. I’m writing to learn how is the science and the society coping with the prevention and cure of the pandemic. I’m also writing to share the state of the corona virus that is further complicated with the long-standing class and communal viruses.

Hurried nod to Western Ghat projects: 16 lakh Goans' water security 'jeopardised'

Counterview Desk
Taking strong exception to "virtual clearances" to eco-sensitive projects in the Western Ghats, the National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM) in a statement has said urged for a review of the four-lane highway, 400 KV transmission line and double tracking of the railway line through the Bhagwan Mahavir Wildlife Sanctuary and Mollem National Park in Goa.

Disturbing signal? Reliance 'shifting focus' away from Indian petrochemical sector

By NS Venkataraman*
Reliance Industries Ltd (RIL), a large Indian company, has expanded and grown in a spectacular manner during the last few decades, like of which no industrial group in India has performed before. RIL is now involved in multi various activities relating to petroleum refineries, petrochemicals, oil and gas exploration, coal bed methane, life sciences, retail business, communication network, (Jio platform) media/entertainment etc.

Oxfam on WB project: ICT 'ineffective', privatised learning to worsen gender divide

By Rajiv Shah 
A top multinational NGO, with presence in several developed and developing countries, has taken strong exception to the World Bank part-funding Strengthening Teaching-Learning and Results for States (STARS) project in six Indian states – Himachal Pradesh, Kerala, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Odisha – for its emphasis on information and communication technology (ICT)-enabled approaches for teacher development, student assessment and digital platform for early childhood education.

Case for nationalising India's healthcare system amidst 'strong' private control

Counterview Desk
A draft discussion note, prepared by Dr Maya Valecha, a Gujarat-based gynecologist and activist, sent to the People's Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) as also a large number of activists, academics and professionals as an email alert, is all set to create a flutter among policy experts for its strong insistence on nationalizing India’s healthcare system.

Cruel legacy of Green Revolution? Covid-19 underscores 'risky, fragile' food system

By Moin Qazi*  The Covid-19 crisis has highlighted the risks of an unhealthy diet and the extreme fragility of food systems. The economic reconstruction that will follow the pandemic is the perfect opportunity to provide better nutrition and health to all. The pandemic should spur us to redefine how we feed ourselves, and agricultural research can play a vital role in making our food systems more sustainable and resilient.

Coal blocks for tycoons: Rinchi village tribals may be declared forest land encroachers

By Gladson Dungdung*
On June 18, 2020, the Government of India initiated the process for auctioning 41 coal blocks for commercialisation. These coal blocks are located in different states within India and most of them fall under Fifth Schedule areas. The Indian government claims that their decision to auction these coal areas is a big step towards making the country Atmanirbhar Bharat (self-reliant) in the energy sector.