Author: Parveen Kaswan (Author is an Aerospace engineer, currently associated with the field of Engineering Designs at Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore )
“A journey of thousand miles must begin with the first step”.
The glorious journey of Indian Space Technology began with the great pioneer Dr. Vikram Sarabhai, who is the “Father of the Indian Space Program”. After the launch of Russian Sputnik he convinced the government of the importance of space programme for a developing country like India thus leading to the establishment of Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO). He was also supported by Dr. Homi Jehangir Bhabha. If we recall the history, scientists converted a church into main office and the bishop’s house was converted into workshop. Villagers provided 400 acre land in Thumba for various purposes and a cattle shed became the laboratory. Scientists used to travel by bus and rocket parts were transferred by bicycles. India launched first sounding rocket (Nike-Apache) on 21 November, 1963. Today we have travelled so far, we have various high-tech laboratories equipped with all means of transportation including rail network, ship and helipad. Till date a slew of ambitious projects have been lined up by ISRO, one of the six largest Government Space Agencies in the World. The Parliament acknowledged this and the House has made a provision of 5,615 Crores to the Department of Space, in its annual budget. At a time when most nations are cutting back on space exploration, this news is generating quite a bit of noise in the international corridors of politics. It has made major players take notice of this change of weather and attracted strong interests in India’s programs. This has helped India in other avenues such as Defence and Foreign Trade, making it a big player in world map.
While this has put India on par with China, its present state of political affairs isn’t an encouraging sign of things to come. A string of scams have tarnished the government’s image and the house no longer does business as usual. The opposition is in no mood to let Government Machinery function and the coalition is too busy keeping it self together. The recent resolution adopted in the state of Tamil Nadu has added to the confusion straining its relations with Sri-Lanka. The cancellation of a GMR project in the Maldives has resonated a growing dis-content from neighboring countries to the way India maintains foreign relations.
This has given China enough time to clear the table. It has started working with these countries by helping them with their space activity. For a long time China has been assisting countries in Africa and Latin America in the areas of space. But the collaboration between Sri Lanka and China in the field of space is major threat to the state of affairs and balance of power in the sub-continent.
Supreme SAT (Pvt.) Ltd., a Sri Lankan company has signed a deal with China Great Wall Industry Corporation (CGWIC) , a state-owned Chinese company to launch three satellites by the year 2015 of which one was launched on 27th November, 2012. The other two are expected to be launched in 2013 and 2015 respectively. Chinese firms have also decided to establish a Content Management Station and a Space Academy in Kandy.
Bangladesh has also invited CGWIC to submit a proposal to provide support for the launch of Bangbandhu, Bangladesh’s communication satellite. China is also supporting Maldives as negotiations are under way to provide Chinese satellites to Maldives. It makes even more evident, China’s “strings of pearls” strategy.
China seems to have caught the plot and India let it go. A fracture in internal politics coupled with a non-functioning government has led to heavy losses on the foreign affairs front. China has taken complete advantage of the situation and outclassed India.
As India is much ahead in space technology of many countries. India is also ahead in making composite materials and different differing types of materials. It also has proved its capabilities in launching PSLVs and GSLVs beyond any doubt. Our Moon mission (chandrayaan-1) was successful and proved us pioneer in space field. So, India must take the hike in space budget and utilize it to boost relations with neighbors. ISRO has proved it time and again that it has world class experience in launching satellites. Recently, ISRO is additionally busy in assembling satellite for the Mars Orbiter Mission, commonly known as MOM and rightly mentioned as the mother of all Indian space designs to date. If the mission will be successful it will prove the country’s technological capability for the launch of 400 km long shot.
India should not confine the “Lookeast Policy” to just trading but it should also allow the exchange of technology as well. This will help in developing better technology. It must also extend collaboration to countries like Sri-Lanka and boost trade in this regard. A growth in space interests by the smaller countries must be seen as an opportunity for India to pledge its space resources. ISRO must build cheap technology and provide professional training to the work force. An aggressive initiative in this regard will really help India regain past relations with its neighbors. In return by providing high-end technical space services to these small countries ISRO will expand its arms to the new horizons and it can generate revenue for the organization for further expansion.
India must spear head groups such as the one China leads, i.e Asia-Pacific Space Cooperation Organization (APSCO) ) to raise the standard of technology for its partnering nations as well as provide a stronger voice to its contention to being recognized as a military and economic super power. The main aim of extending the deals is not to be better than any other country but to be better ourselves and to expand ourselves worldwide. One of the most important idea is to expand ISRO and bring it among the other International space agencies like NASA, ESA etc.
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Picture Courtesy: ISRO