The dynamics of India’s space program have transformed over the decades, reflecting not just technological advancements but also geopolitical shifts. Recent developments, like the Chandrayaan-3 mission and the signing of the Artemis Accords, mark a renewed emphasis on international collaboration, reminiscent of the early days of the Indian space journey.
Chandrayaan-3: A Key Technology Demonstrator
According to former ISRO chief, KKasturirangan, Chandrayaan-3 is not just another mission for India. Beyond its scientific objectives, it holds the promise of India positioning itself as a key player in global space policy. This crucial technological demonstration ensures that the nation is part of the elite group shaping the policies for planetary explorations and even potential space resource extraction.
Artemis Accords: Reviving the Spirit of the Outer Space Treaty
India’s decision to become the 27th signatory to the Artemis Accords in June symbolizes its commitment to a globally collaborative approach to space exploration. By joining this US initiative, India reiterates its dedication to the core objectives of the 1967 Outer Space Treaty. In essence, it’s a full-circle return to international collaboration, which had once been the cornerstone of India’s space agenda.
The Historical Tapestry of Collaboration
India’s foray into space had the backing of major international players such as the US, USSR, and France. This global partnership was instrumental in fast-tracking India’s development phases. However, two significant events created disruptions. India’s nuclear detonations in 1974 and the Western world’s focus on curbing missile proliferation added complexities to these alliances. Post the successful launch of SLV-3, India’s first satellite launch vehicle, in 1980, the technological exchange scenario grew tense. The subsequent establishment of the Missile Technology Control Regime in 1987, and the sanctions on ISRO in the 90s, further strained these relationships.
A Shift in Geopolitical Winds
The landscape has evolved significantly since then. On one hand, ISRO’s efforts in building in-house capabilities, despite the sanctions, have now made it a desirable collaborator for global space agencies. On the other, the geopolitical scenario has witnessed drastic shifts, especially with China emerging as a global power and a key player in space. ISRO’s growing partnership with NASA and its ventures with other agencies like Jaxa are testimonies to this changing environment.
Benefits Beyond the Sky
The rewards of these collaborations aren’t limited to outer space alone. Engaging in such partnerships aids ISRO in scaling up its technological prowess. A byproduct of these alliances is the boost it provides to the Indian industry. For instance, ISRO’s technology transfer since the 1980s has empowered numerous Indian firms, especially those in specialized sectors like materials, chemicals, broadcasting, and navigation. Such collaborations not only set the ball rolling in the 1960s but, looking forward, the inherent strengths of ISRO will continue to magnetize global partners.
The Indian space program, conceived as a technological catalyst for rapid industrial transition, is on the cusp of achieving its foundational objective of becoming a beacon for technology dissemination. With successful milestones like a soft landing on the Moon, it’s clear that the program is on a trajectory of achieving and even surpassing its envisioned goals.
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