Interpreting India

Shaping Space Diplomacy with Rajeswari P. Rajagopalan

Episode Summary

Rajeswari Pillai Rajagopalan and Srinath Raghavan discuss areas for competition, cooperation, and governance in the space domain.

Episode Notes

Rajeswari Pillai Rajagopalan and Srinath Raghavan discuss areas for competition, cooperation, and governance in the space domain.



Dr Rajeswari (Raji) Pillai Rajagopalan is the Director of the Centre for Security, Strategy and Technology at the Observer Research Foundation, New Delhi.  Dr Rajagopalan was the Technical Advisor to the United Nations Group of Governmental Experts  on Prevention of Arms Race in Outer Space (PAROS) (July 2018-July 2019).  She was also a Non-Resident Indo-Pacific Fellow at the Perth USAsia Centre from April-December 2020.  As a senior Asia defence writer for The Diplomat, she writes a weekly column on Asian strategic issues.

Srinath Raghavan is a nonresident senior fellow at Carnegie India. He is also a professor of International Relations and History at Ashoka University. His primary research focus is on the contemporary and historical aspects of India’s foreign and security policies. He has written a number of books spanning international relations, strategic studies and modern South Asian history. 


Additional Reading:

  1. Space Policy 2.0: Commerce, Policy, Security, and Governance edited by Rajeswari P. Rajagopalan and Narayan Prasad Nagendra
  2. Space Warfare in the 21st Century: Arming the Heavens by Jordan Joseph Freese
  3. The Politics of Space Security: Strategic Restraint and the Pursuit of National Interests by James Clay Moltz


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Episode Transcription


(Intro) Srinath Raghavan: Hello and welcome to interpreting India. I'm Srinath Raghavan and this is the podcast presented by Carnegie India. Every two weeks we bring to you voices from India and around the world as we unpack the role of technology, the economy and foreign policy in shaping India's relationship with the world.

Earlier this year, India tested its anti-satellite weapons capability called Mission Shakti, making it only the fourth country to conduct an ASAT missile test after the United States, Russia, and China. This renewed focus on space activity comes at an interesting juncture in geopolitics. The prospect of a new and reinvigorated space race in some ways is reminiscent of the cold war era competition for the mastery of space between the United States and the former Soviet union. Last year, president Trump announced the creation of the US space force, the sixth independent military service branch of the United States armed forces, which led many to caution against the increased militarization of space in the years to come. 

Complicating this scenario is the entry of several private players into the space industry for commercial and development purposes. All this has led to calls for regulatory and governance mechanisms to be put in place and global norms of behaviour for outer space. To discuss these issues with us today we have Dr Rajeswari Pillai Gopalan. Raji is a Distinguished Fellow and Head of the Nuclear and Space Policy at Observer Research Foundation, New Delhi. Prior to joining ORF, Raji served as Assistant Director at the National Security Council Secretariat (NSCS) from 2003 to 2007. A prolific writer, she has several publications to her credit, both as an author and an editor. Most recently she co-edited Space Policy 2.0: Commerce, Policy, Security and Governance Perspectives. Raji’s writings have appeared in some of the leading journals of international relations and security studies. Raji Rajagopalan, welcome to Interpreting India!

Raji Rajagopalan: Thank you.

Srinath Raghavan: I wanted to start by asking you about the current conjuncture between geopolitics and space programs. You know, we all know that during the cold war space was an integral part at least of our imagination of what the geopolitical competition between the superpowers was. But in recent years, there seems to have been some kind of a revival of space as being a very integral part of global power, politics and diffusion of power as it is taken place. So what in your opinion, accounts for the revival of space, so to speak, or has just been there all along and we've not been paying attention.

Raji Rajagopalan: Thank you Srinath, I think that's a fascinating question because you are beginning to see a fresh kind of a competition playing out in space and this is a function of the changing balance of power equations. Um, I think that's the primary driver for the renewed competition and the renewed attention that space is getting. So if you look at the earlier era space was mostly used for strategic purposes by both the US and the Soviet union. Uh, but not so much in the conventional military realm, for conventional military operations, that began to change and the color. And I think that's a big differentiation between the earlier politics and today's space race in a sense. So, but yeah, but even then I think you did see a whole range of anti-satellite tests and the kind of space, military space programs by both the super powers of the day. Uh, and that kind of played on until about the mid-eighties. For instance, I wanted the lighting, the last, anti-satellite test done by the U S was in the mid-eighties. And after that there was an unwritten moratorium in place in terms of, uh, you know, this is going to contribute to further deterioration of the space and environment and therefore neither of the countries pursued further programs of that kind. Uh, and come 2007, so 2000, mid 2000 thousand. So after a break of about two decades, you are beginning to see that competition playing out. Uh, the first sign of the revival of the competition was with the Chinese anti-satellite test. They had been some trying to do the test from 2005 on was, but the first successful is at test by China was in January, 2007 and that gave way to a fresh thinking about even within India, within India for instance, after the ASAT test, there was sort of a wakeup call for India as well to what are the kinds of measures India needs to put in place as a way of deterrence as a way to protect our own assets because we have a financial stake as well in the space program. And so what needs to be done.

So even within India that gave sport to a new debate and across the board you have the political leadership and the military leadership, the Indian air force came out talking about it and even the technocrats they talked about as to what we need to do to protect as well as to deter things out of space. And of course that led to the finally the, uh, India's own ASAT test in 2019 March. But before that, I think a then followed by the Chinese is ASAT test. You had the US conducting another ASAT test in 2008, uh, that was somewhat slightly more responsible at least that was conducted in a, on a lower orbit. So it did not result in a long lasting debris cloud. So to say, unlike the Chinese, ASAT test that was done at really high altitude, which has created about 3000 pieces of space debris and those are going to be long lasting for it for a decade. It's going to last there. So overall this has given way to more competition. Uh, and I would say the primary driver is the changing power dynamics both in Asia and beyond.

Srinath Raghavan: And I think we will definitely come back to unpack some of those issues, particularly about the Chinese Anti-satellite test and the Indian reaction to it. But I just want to stay with the very important insight with which you began. You said that during the cold war space mattered primarily because it was a demonstration of technological capability and promise, whereas today space matters because it is very closely intertwined with military power itself. Could you give us a sense of in what ways modern military power is reliant on space-based assets? 

Raji Rajagopalan: So, the older decades when the competition between the U S and Soviets were playing out, it was mostly used for, of course there was a lot of national prestige and which would be the country to do the first in land on the moon for us to do this, so there was a lot of that kind of a demonstration that was happening. But I think that all panned out by the sixties and seventies, that began to kind of slow down. And by the 80s, even the ASAT programs begin to kind of wind down, so to say. And primarily space was used for monitoring arms control measures. But that's, that was a, that was still a kind of an acceptable way of dealing because the competition was privately between the two powers. Today you have something like 80 active players in outer space and with about 12 countries that can actually launch satellites. 

Um, so you have a fairly large mix of countries from Latin America to Africa who are developing capabilities. But you have more established players in Asia, uh, America. And the more dangerous part, part of this whole competition is that they, we are today talking about using space assets for military conventional military operations.

Srinath Raghavan: And is it true to say that it's not just the United States, which is vulnerable to these, but in effect many militaries, even amongst mid-tier powers, right?

Raji Rajagopalan: Absolutely.

Srinath Raghavan: Simple thing like global positioning systems are crucial to the way that our military operations have been planned and executed today. And which in turn seems to have led some countries to think for alternatives to it. For instance, the Russians are developing GLONASS, which is their own sort of homegrown version of this thing. And they were looking for partners to join up that particular venture. So, uh, so do you think there's going to be, uh, a move towards creating parallel systems, which will have military applications, which in turn will then lead to a proliferation of capabilities to target those? 

Raji Rajagopalan: So a couple of different things that are happening. So today when you have a sort of any disruption or a you're trying to target a particular system, it has not just a military impact, but it is also going to impact the civilian because the extensive, uh, use of space in the civil economic sector is so much that you are relying whether you are going to an ATM to pull out money you, whether you're asking for directions through your Google maps and so on and so forth. Everything is so linked to space. Yet, we don't recognize that dependency and how any disruption to the space activities can have multiple effects. So it's global and the effect is going to be global. The effect is going to be set. It's not going to be a sector specific, but it's going to be across the board in a sense. 

So that those are the kind of realities which most of the time we are not thinking about it and we are not recognizing and acknowledging that, uh, appropriately. Alternated systems are coming about because one, because you don't want to depend on the GPS alone. For instance, India itself is developing a much smaller version of GPS called the IRNSS, Indian regional navigation satellite system. There are components we kind of rely on the, uh, on the US for upgrading these, some of the system navigation system. Gagan system for instance, uses the GPS to upgrade the system. The navigation program. Uh, but essentially there has been an effort to create your own system Baidu, for instance, the Chinese system, is meant to be operational across the Asia Pacific region by 2025 and they are meant to have a full global presence by about 2030. 

So there are efforts to create this global networks, parallel networks so that you are not reliant on one particular party, whether it is the US. But I think there are also efforts by everybody to kind of test out and tease out this new counterspace capabilities to create those vulnerabilities. So a extensive use of cyber means and electronic warfare, these are because you don't necessarily need to now go for anti-satellite capability that will also create a lot more satellite, uh, space debris for instance, because there's already a huge amount of junk that is floating around in space. So you don't want to add to that. But at the same time do certain things and cyber means are very cheap in a sense. Uh, if you, if you want to buy an an a jamming device, you can do it book buy it online for a couple of hundred bucks actually. So it's not that, you know, these are not easy to find or easy to operate. 

I think for about a decade now, since 2008 actually you have been seeing increasing number of, uh, incidents, but they are more in terms of testing out the capabilities, testing out the technologies. Teasing out the capabilities. So they have not created long-term disruption, but they have just created a kind of, you know, pinprick to just see, okay, whether this particular technology to disrupt a particular service or deny a particular service, whether it's working or not. So there have been enough number of, uh, incidents over the last a decade or so. Mostly they had, these have been, uh, between US and China. Um, but they have been, Russians had been developing some of these capabilities as well. And both Russia and the U S have their own cold war legacy technology as was always the one to activate new capabilities, counter space capabilities, go orbital anti-satellite capability. It's not difficult. It's not, it's not going to be a time consuming process, uh, for them to develop some of these capabilities.

The US is not the only target country. If China for instance, is developing certain capabilities with the US in mind, they can easily target us. And I think that's the thing. Till the Chinese ASAT test, we never bothered about an ASAT capability because we had thought, we thinking that these are big boys toys we don't need to spend our hard earned sources on developing these kinds of capabilities. But that was a wakeup call to the kind of threat that exists in our neighbourhood and space being a global community. It doesn't make a difference whether it is in our neighbourhood or not. But the fact that China has, gone on to develop this capability did uh, sort of, uh, sent home the message very loud and clear that this is a threat we need to be cognizant of and address in a way that is, that's going to protect our assets. 

Srinath Raghavan: So it seems that space is becoming very crowded increasingly. here are so many actors, States which did not have the capabilities in the past now seem to have the capabilities, the diffusion of this technology has meant that there are many more actors. We're piggybacking on other States to create their own assets in space. And then as you're saying, because of the kind of multifarious civil and military applications off space-based assets, there is a move towards creating capabilities which can target those and bring them down. Those could be kinetic, they could be non-kinetic. I'm not sure whether you can envisage a future where non state actors might have some skin in this particular game, uh, as it is playing out. So wait, are we, is it then fair to say that we are in a situation where talking of something like an arms race in space is no longer just pie in the sky academic talk, but it's something which is likely to unfold in the future? 

Raji Rajagopalan: Yeah. First I'll touch upon with non-state actor. Um, uh, they are already a reality in a sense, non-state in the form of private sector and uh, typically, uh, private sector participation has been a predominantly Western phenomenon, but I think that's beginning to change in Asia as well. Uh, you have a sizeable, you have something close to the, about somewhere between 80 to 120 private sector firms, uh, in the form of new start-ups or small and medium size enterprises in China already in a country and even in India, there is a sizable number of private sector firms that are coming up in a big way. So in India you have multiple levels of players. You have some of the established players like the Larsen and Toubro, Godrej. Uh, you had the Walchand Nagar, who had been traditionally supplying, uh, you know, uh, components and systems to ISRO. Even though ISRO had Indian space program is a state run program similarly to similar to China's, uh, but both countries, even so broadly when Asia, you are beginning to see a change where private sector is becoming a reality, so to say.

And that's because at least in the case of India for instance, there is capacity gap or deficit within ISRO. ISRO is not able to meet the growing sets of demands, whether it isn't for your to lead it to telecommunication to uh, tele broadcasting or a sort of, um, a telemedicine or, uh, agriculture, weather forecasting, whole range of things. And even for commercial and other such applications,

Srinath Raghavan: ISRO has its own commercial arm: ANTRIX.

Raji Rajagopalan: That's right. And we also have gone onto set up a new entity called the New Space India Limited (NSIL), uh, which I would think maybe would take on some of the job responsibilities that, uh, Antrix was doing before. Um, but, uh, the NSIL is seen as a body that would do a bit of handholding for the new, uh, private entities that ISRO wants to engage with. ISRO has already begun to engage with the, some of the private sector players precisely like I said, because they don't have the in house capacity to do. 

Um, so for one example is that the we have a seven satellite constellation for navigation program. Uh, one of the satellites had different, problem and we had to launch a new one for which again ISRO did not have the capacity in house. So they reached out to one of the, uh, companies, uh, called the alpha design, which is a small and medium size enterprise, uh, a Bangalore based company. So they reached out to them and so they manufactured satellite for them. Second was for some of the propulsion technologies. Again, uh, companies within Bangalore are beginning to supply things, capacities to ISRO. So there is all this is happening because of it traditionally, uh, is so never wanted to share the space with others. And even now there is quite a bit of hesitancy and apprehension. 

So the ISRO’s model is still one of outsourcing and not to create a level playing field for the private sector to be an active player, um, for them to kind of invest in serious R&D and come up with the model and so on and so forth. I would have, I do in my writings to say that, you know, NASA provides a good example. The US space program has, they can rely on a range of private sector players, yet NASA’s importance as a space agency has never gone away. And I think it still has to have that confidence to say that we will engage private sector, we will open up the field and R&D can be done by the, uh, by the private sector who has some money and who have the, all the funds and everything expertise in a sense. They can do it and we will, we'll be a facilitator instead of being a gatekeeper, which is what we are all today is. So private sector is already. So the non-state act aspect is already a kind of becoming very clear in Asia as well. Um, but uh, I think this is going to become a reality and I think this is also making the whole process complex. Today, the private sector for instance, they are also, especially in the Western context, they are also launching military payloads. So that makes it even, so somebody wants to target a military asset, which is launched by a private entity. Would the private entity then be responsible and carry out a counter attack among a particular state or how do you do that? One issue. Second is there are also mixed payloads being carried today by private sector that are both military and a pure civil, uh, payloads that being carried. So again, if you want to target a military asset, a particular on a pay. So these are becoming a lot more complex. It's not very clear. And at the same time when it comes to the global governance aspect, it is still, um, we have a few, uh, treaties and mechanisms in place, but they are proving to be, uh, insufficient, I would say ambiguous and insufficient to meet the current and emerging threats and challenges in space.

Srinath Raghavan: I want to come back to that point in just a little bit, but you mentioned about the Indian space program and its diversification in recent times. Historically it seems to me that uh, India took considerable pains to keep its space program separate from other kinds of related military applications. Like the missile program was under the DRDO, while the space program was always under the ISRO. And of course that was partly because we ourselves were under an international sanctions regime post the nuclear tests of 1974. So you wanted to keep that kind of a firewall. But I'm, if I'm not mistaken, there was a rotational personnel. I mean, I think most importantly Abdul Kalam and Dr. Pillai and, uh, other scientists who, so there was a circulation of information, but at least in institutional terms, there was a clear separation. Now post the Indian ASAT tests, do you think that institutional boundary, uh, is getting more blurred in a sense? It's not just the private sector versus the government, but even within the government, that kind of separations, which we had our possibly dissolving and may become irrelevant as we go forward. 

Raji Rajagopalan: Absolutely, you are very right. And in fact from, I would say a, I would even go back to about 2013, August when India launched, the ISRO, launched the first dedicated military satellite for the Indian Navy, uh, for maritime communications. And since then there have been three more satellites dedicated military satellites launched, so I think increasingly these lines, like you said, are getting blurred. Uh, but I think there is also a recognition of the fact that we need to separate out because there are growing demands on the military. The military space program is also taking a bit better shape. Uh, Indian, uh, overall official position has not changed. We still say that space must be used for peaceful purposes alone and peace space must not be militarized, weaponized.

But the fact is that India is only the space program is getting a lot more militaristic, uh, military characteristics of the program are evolving in very clear terms. Um, so like I said, uh, you have four military dedicated military satellites. You have also a lot, many more dual-use satellites that can be used for giving the resolution to some of the satellites, the imagery. Um, so it is kind of getting blurred, but in terms of the instructional architectural, so we are beginning to see more institutions precisely to target the, um, uh, the military side of the side of the development. Um, so we set up by in 2008, the uh, integrated space cell within the, uh, integrated different staff by the Ministry of Defense. That was a sort of, that was the first baby step that we took in terms of integrating the different functions and also to bring about greater coherence and coordination among the agencies - Ministry of Defense, the department of space and ISRO as well as the armed forces. 

Um, but that was only an initial baby step. It did not really bring about that kind of a coherence that was required on the Indian part in terms of identifying what are the requirements, future requirements and what are the kinds of capacity build-up that we need to do. Um, so in most recent times you have seen couple of other major steps being taken. One was the defence space agency, DSA that was being set up, uh, there has been a growing demand for the full fledge aerospace command, at least from a former close to about two decades. Uh, but I think that's a, we are far from it. We are still not, uh, maybe in a few years we may get around to that. But I think, uh, for the immediate term, uh, the for instance the former defense minister Parrikar said, why do we need to create a command first we need to build up the capacity and then we will go on to establish these commands? 

So this was part of the three tri-service commands that were to come. One is the defense, uh, space agency now this, so these are meant to be the interim bodies before we go and visit the full-fledged commands. So one is the different spaces you see under the heading of a Indian Air Force Officer. You will have a similarly a cyber defense, cyber command under the Navy and so on and so forth. Then we are also setting up a, something akin to the DRDO but I think there is also going to be a body that will focus more on the different space. Um, R&D what is required. So DSA will be required, we'll be responsible for developing the strategy and the other body is going to be in terms of developing the capacity on the ground, what needs to be done. 

Srinath Raghavan: Right. And the prime minister recently announced that they are going to create the chief of different staff as a single point military advisor to the government. Uh, we, I understand that the design of that particular office is currently underway even as we're speaking and hopefully you'll be able to have an announcement in the coming weeks. Do you think that will give a greater integrated structure within which some of these activities like the defense space agency, broader planning about integrating of space and millitary capabilities? Possibly doing it in an inter-agency context as well? 

Raji Rajagopalan: I hope that would be the case, but hope is not a policy and, I say this because I think that you already begun to see the kind of resistance, uh, from the bureaucracy already to have that kind of a setup where, you know, the military would have a serious more, uh, more input, serious input on the planning and capability build up and even now they task goals that they have set up to, uh, implement the decision is headed by the different secretary and somebody else. So which already shows that, you know, you have a bureaucrat in charge of the entire process. You should have been ideally somebody from outside who is an expert, who was talked about the utility of such a body in the true sense. But you already seeing that is not really the case. To me, I'm a little skeptic on the whole CDS decision. I want to be hopeful, but I'm skeptic because, my thinking is that the bureaucratic pressure is going to be so much that I think the bureaucracy will still continue to have a bigger say in how that office runs. Um, because, uh, I don't think they are going to leave it out to the military to have a much more serious input, so that, that's, and that has had a longer kind of input in terms of the civil military relations. If you look at it, I think this has been part of the problem. Uh, but, um, recent reports saying that a NSA may actually come up with a national security strategy, um, which absolutely they have been talking about and the sort of involving the, including the anti-satellite capability in a much more proactive fashion. Uh, but my worry is that this is anti-satellite capabilities, not like the nuclear weapons demonstrated capability demonstration. This is something very different. So far, none of the, you have four countries now including India that have demonstrated an anti-satellite capability, US, Russia, and China and India becomes a forth and none of the countries have so far operationalized the ASAT capability as by putting it in as part of the their warfare doctrine. Um, India wanting to do that seems to be a bit of, um, extra eagerness and I think, I don't think that is a good sign for me. I would hope that they don't go into operationalizing because deterrence in space itself has not become reality for most countries. Um, so us pushing that and pushing along that line could actually make other countries also follow down, go down that path.

Srinath Raghavan: Can you expand a little bit on that? In what way does the difference in space work differently say from the way that we think of conventional deterrence of nuclear deterrence?

Raji Rajagopalan: So there is some bit of deterrence in play. For instance, um, why did India do the ASAT test in March? Uh, this was precisely to send a message to China that if you, you have the capacity. So we were essentially trying to match up a capability that already exist in our neighbourhood. Um, so this was the message was that if you mess around with our satellite, we have the capability to do that to you. 

We will do precisely that. So that's a sort of deterrence game that India was trying to short the strike.

Srinath Raghavan: Mutual assured destruction.

Raji Rajagopalan: Exactly. So if you do this, we'll will have the capacity to do it. Uh, but it still not space overall has not, the ASAT that is possibly an exception, but the space has not really been part of the overall deterrence game in a sense within the space domain itself. And, uh, the more we don't, we don't talk to each other in the, in the, in the global governance scheme, uh, the more suspicion is going to be like, okay, what is the, what is the purpose of a particular capability build-up? What are the broad orientation of a particular space program? Um, so I think the need of the hour is to have more and more institutionalized dialogues where they, it is a track one, track 1.5 or even track two dialogues that can actually help contribute to have a better understanding among countries because that's become today the bigger problem. 

There are clearly now dual-use capabilities. So the Chinese have developed something called the room in dragon, which has a robotic arm. The Chinese have come out, at least in the official parlors to say that this is going to be a capability to clean up the space junk, but everybody's suspicion is if you're going to be able to have the capacity to move an object because it's a space junk, tomorrow during a conflict, you might mess around with my satellite. 

You have the capability now you have demonstrated that capability to shift around space objects. What is the guarantee that you will not do it to me tomorrow during a conflict or who decides which object is to be moved around. These are again, none of the capabilities are proven asset. NASA is developing certain clean, clean up space debris clean-up technology, Australians, there's a private sector that is invested in this regard. There are a couple of, uh, European countries, Japanese are developing certain lasers and nets and so different technologies are being explored. None of these are proven and we haven't even gotten around to the regulatory aspect of who decides what to remove and what not to shift. And so there's a whole lot of things that are still not explored in terms of legal and regulatory side of the governance aspect. 

Srinath Raghavan: In a lot of your writings, you made the point that India has this unique opportunity and is well positioned to be able to be a norm entrepreneur in the space to suggest and possibly shape norms and generally some kind of a consensus around this. It also allows us to take leadership in a new domain of international and global politics. Uh, could you share some thoughts on how exactly do you think India can do that? What would be the first couple of steps that we should be taking in that respect? 

Raji Rajagopalan: So India has been sort of, we have been proactive in this regard starting from the 1960s but our debates were very different and that, that part of time sixties, seventies, even in the 80s, uh, it was driven a lot by morality principle-based approach. Uh, and that from that position we have come to something more pragmatic today, pragmatic and national security oriented approach to space. Um, so with that I would think is somewhat more sustainable. And that's more for India's own position on space debates in the parliament but also, in the within the parliament but also in, uh, it can also be applied to a multilateral platforms. How India positions itself on a number of issues. So India is positioned for a long time, even now officially it, it continues to be that the, we should move towards developing a legally binding verifiable measure.

These are nice sounding words, but uh, verifiable measures, when it comes to space is extremely challenging, uh, something to verify in outer space. Unless something shoots up there, you will never going to be able to know as long as the country is developing a certain capability, you will not know at the R&D stage, you will never know. And that's also the worry. For instance, civil space cooperation. I have again argued saying that we have to have some broad rules of the road, uh, because, uh, today countries can access technology in the name of civil space corporation developing space capability for weather forecasting, telemedicine, tele-education. But what's the guarantee that the country is not going to be diverting that capability for developing military space program or even worse to develop ballistic missiles. So there are those worries. So verifying something is extremely challenging when it comes to outer space capabilities. 

So our position that legally binding verifiable measures are the way to go about, um, it hasn't had much of a traction, especially in recent times. Today, over the last decade or so, when you look at the global governance debates, it's not unique to space. It's a across the board you can look at any important international security issue. The biggest stumbling block has been to develop consensus among the bigger players and developing consensus agreement among the players today whether it's on identifying the challenges to ideating possible solutions for the future, both have become a serious issue. So for some countries, for instance, it is, um, you know, arms race is the biggest issue and I would say that would be a big issue in the, in the future, in the, in the coming future. But for some other countries it might be the space debris, which is already a huge issue. 

A few years ago we had an edited book, uh, on space, global governance issues and one of the chapters was written by an Ecuadorian space official, agency official. And he talked about his chapter title was in, happened to us and he was referring to this space debris that hit their one and only satellite, uh, hit by one of these Chinese space, uh, debris from the 2017 ASAT test. So no space debris is already a huge problem and unless we developed certain means and capabilities to, uh, to kind of track that aspect. And that brings me to the point about the need to have space situational awareness capability, SSA so unless you have some understanding, a fair amount of understanding on the kind of environment that we are operating in, it's very difficult to, you can't rely on the USG spoke or other capabilities. And especially after the March, 2019 ASAT test this point came out very many times saying that India should have tool and ISRO has now gone on to set up a SSA division at the store headquarters of which is a first good step. 

So, so the kind of, uh, issues we need to have the global governance level. Uh, I've been trying to, again, writing something along this lines to see the, what is the role of the middle space powers because the great powers are caught up in their own great power relations and the politics around that. You're not going to see much of a progress, but given the kind of challenges and threats that are already threatening the outer space activities, uh, and if you're, if you want to be able to have continued safe, secure access to all the space, you need to have some measures put out there. And, uh, India's position in practical terms has become more pragmatic. Where to say that we might start with transparency and confidence building measures, TCBMs uh, which are seen more as political measures. These are voluntary measures. Are there are advantages and disadvantages, but I think India has come to position itself as, okay, we may start with a TCBM as an initial first step and hopefully get the build-up of the political, trust and confidence among nations that would actually gradually get us towards the legally binding measures. 

Um, that's not a bad approach I would say. But I think India needs to, India needs to and can take up the leadership role for a number of developing countries who look at India as for a lot of countries around the world, India is a perfect example. They see India as a developing country who was along with them, whether it is countries in Africa, Asia, Latin America, and today India is a country that is able to able to do a Mangalyan and do a Chandrayan, which a handful of countries I've done. So for them, India is a good model to look at and they do look at India and say, okay, this is a great growth story. This is something that we can also aspire to. And so India taking on a leadership role will have a lot more appeal in that sense among a large number of developing countries 

Srinath Raghavan: And we will put out links to some of your important writings on this in the show notes. Before we sign off, I wanted to ask you if you could think of any book or article or which our listeners could read in order to get a good grip on some of the issues that we've been talking about. Not necessarily related to India, but even perhaps more globally. 

Raji Rajagopalan: Yeah, I think I unfortunately we don't to see too many diplomacy aspects when it comes to space because it has been, like you said, it's a cliched kind of thing to say space is crowded, congested, and contested. But I think that are a couple of important reports. One would say needs to be looked at. What is the a secure world foundation, they come out with an annual now, second edition of the counter space threats reports have come out. A similar report also is brought out by the CSIS based in Washington. Uh, they do come up with this, but then I would suggest two important books to look at. One is by Jordan Johnson Freese who has again looked at the overall, uh, kind of a competitive phrase but also emphasizing the need for greater cooperation among States to develop certain global governance measures because otherwise you are not going to be able to use space for a very long time. 

One another person to track I think is James Clay Moltz, uh, based in the Naval War College, uh, who has been doing a fair amount of work on the Asian space program in broader terms as well. Again, making an emphasis on the, there are problems that is competition that is driving a lot of the space programs and policies today. But we also need to look at cooperation and diplomacy, give diplomacy a chance, kind of argument. And I think that's, uh, important for us to look at.

Srinath Raghavan: Well let's hope things will improve as we go ahead. Raji Rajagopalan been a pleasure to have you on Interpreting India.

Raji Rajagopalan: Thank you. Thank you, Srinath. 

(Outro) Srinath Raghavan: Thank you for listening to this episode of interpreting India. A podcast presented every two weeks by Carnegie India. I'm Srinath Raghavan. For more information about the podcast and the production team, you can follow us on social media and visit our webpage.