There have been three space security dialogues, which is a good start, but space should also be incorporated in larger strategic and 2+2 discussions

The United States and India, both major space powers, have long worked together on civil space efforts but have not done much in regards to security space cooperation. According to Victoria Samson, Washington Office Director, Secure World Foundation, “This is a real missed opportunity, as each country has a lot to offer the other in terms of shoring up their national security and the stability of the space domain overall. Space has been a force multiplier for the United States for decades and is now considered to be a war-fighting domain. India has not yet adopted that terminology, but is shifting its space efforts to include those with more military goals and objectives, and is increasingly giving more authority for space programs to its Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO).”

One way in which for the two to cooperate is through space situational awareness (SSA) agreement. “As of April 2019, STRATCOM (Strategic Command) had signed 100 SSA sharing agreements with 20 countries, two intergovernmental organisations, and 78 commercial owner/operators, but India is not one of those countries. Signing an agreement with India should be made a priority by STRATCOM leadership, particularly given that India is laying the groundwork for its own SSA network and also because of India’s growing prominence in launching multiple satellites at one time,” Samson says.

According to her, space should become a regular part of the bilateral discussions between the United States and India on security issues. There have been three space security dialogues, which is a good start, but space should also be incorporated in larger strategic and 2+2 discussions.

“Finally, it is so crucial for both the development and evolution of India’s space programme and for the US-India relationship in space that the Indian government formalise a national space policy and/or strategy, as that will expedite strategic partnership in space between the two countries,” concludes Samson.

India-US Space Cooperation

The top US companies including Boeing and Raytheon are in talks with the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO). Says Surendra Ahuja, Managing Director, Boeing Defence India (BDI), told Financial Express Online “We are proud of India’s recent strides in space exploration and ambitions towards human space flights by end of 2021. It is a testimony to the country’s innovation, determination and full embrace of the challenges of space. Notwithstanding our six decades of space experience, Boeing is inspired by what India has achieved and it’s aspirations for the future. We look forward to partnering with ISRO in their endeavours.”

Recently, the US-based Raytheon inked a contract with ISRO Satellite Centre for the ground-based elements of the global positioning system (GPS). The contract includes a geostationary earth orbit augmented navigation technology demonstration system (GAGAN-TDS).

GAGAN-TDS will help in civil navigation through use of the space-based augmentation system. The GAGAN which has been endorsed by the International Civil Aviation Organisation is expected to augmenting the standard positioning signals from GPS satellites. As part of the agreement between Raytheon and ISRO, the US Company is going to develop the hardware and software for the ground-based elements of GAGAN.