ASAT test: How India shifted gears to match changing geopolitical realities in space with Mission Shakti

The utility of space as a medium for war has grown exponentially since the days of the Cold War Space Race. The military potential of satellites is manifold: communications, navigation, early-warning systems, reconnaissance, and signal intelligence. Any state that manages to get the upper hand in this frontier can be expected to dominate the outcome of any war. A state with command over space-based assets can jam enemy satellites or destroy them, and stop the enemy from communicating with troops or accessing vital information about troop movements or incoming missiles. It is in this context that the events in India’s neighborhood have caused anxiety and have led to calls for a new space policy aimed at countering the growing might of China’s space military program. India’s space activities are shaped by its geopolitics, and the socio-economic needs of its people. India’s space programme which has been shaped primarily by its scientific community has started recognizing that “space may not remain a purely civilian domain.” India has also accepted the fact that its own Space Policy needs to be re-oriented towards security as now space is increasingly getting weaponized. A report titled ‘Europe-India Space Cooperation: Policy, Legal and Business Perspectives from India’ points out that the country’s space programme had to be tweaked keeping in line with the changing geopolitical realities in Asia and beyond. The report is a collaboration between the European Space Policy Institute (ESPI), and the Observer Research Foundation (ORF). In a chapter authored by Dr Rajeswari Pillai Rajagopalan, Head of the Nuclear and Space Policy Initiative at ORF, she says that the anti-satellite (ASAT) test conducted by India recently was in recognition of the growing security threats and challenges and what it needs to do to establish its own deterrence mechanism in outer space. In 2007, China had carried out its ASAT test which was a demonstration of the growing strength of China in the military space domain. According to her, Beijing’s growing muscle power in space is expected to have a multiplier effect in its dealings with India and other key spacefaring powers such as Japan. The changed focus of India’s space programme has also led India to pursue collaborative ventures in space with a number of other key space powers such as the US, Japan, and France. India and Europe are heavily invested in outer space and both have important economic stakes in keeping the outer space environment safe, secure and clean. India’s investments are worth $37 billion, including the ground-based infrastructure and value-added services. Therefore, the protection of its space assets is a high priority. There are enormous benefits that space cooperation between India and Europe can bring for the social and economic development of their people and accordingly, emphasize the use of space for developmental and peaceful purposes. According to the report, both India and Europe can come together for extending space development assistance to a number of emerging space players in Asia, Africa, and Latin America. The two sides have their own capabilities in the areas of earth observation and communication satellites. India has one of the largest remote sensing satellite systems in place with the launch of CARTOSAT 1, 2, 2A and 2B, RISAT-2, RISAT-1, MeghaTropiques and SARAL and European Union’s Copernicus Earth Observation and Monitoring programme can also do a great deal in meeting the requirements of the emerging space players in different regions. Both India and the region have worked together for five decades on initiatives that have led to new research discoveries, commercial opportunities and greater socio-economic progress. New Space is an unfolding and complex phenomenon encompassing various trends, including technological, political, and commercial trends that are together contributing to an increasingly more prominent role for private actors’ involvement in space. According to the report, this is more of a framework that will act as an enabler to expand capacity and capability for the industry to offer end-to-end products and services. India possesses both civilian and military space assets, and the country has been focussing on increasing its space assets-build up. In today’s time, no country can afford taking its space infrastructure lightly. Therefore, it was indispensable for India to ensure sufficient protection of its increasing number of satellites. Given how China has been able to develop ASAT weapons technology, India couldn’t afford not to create a deterrent effect. It is necessary to analyse “Mission Shakti” in this background. The testing of ASAT weapons technology by India is not a show of muscle power. It is a realisation of the future needs of national security and India has successfully kept pace with the next-generation technology of warfare.

 Source:Financial Express

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