You are here

Space Assets and India’s Capability (Specific to Satellite Communication for Defence Forces up to 2020 and Beyond)

  • Share
  • Tweet
  • Email
  • Whatsapp
  • Linkedin
  • Print
  • February 26, 2010
    Fellows' Seminar
    1030 to 1300 hrs

    Colonel Deepak Sharma treated the subject from the larger point of view of national security. He argued that space assets constitute a sub-set in the broader structure of national security, and highlighted the important role they play in military defence. According to him, imagery, navigation, signals intelligence, telecommunication, early warning and meteorology are the key satellite functions that are vital in military operations. Besides, on a strategic planning level, satellite communication would also be crucial to maintain and sustain troops deployed outside.

    After introducing the theme and its relevance in general, Sharma defined what he means by space system. He argued that space system meant both a satellite and its ground station(s), with trained and technically competent manpower attached to them.

    After this he produced various tables, graphs and charts giving a break-up of country-wise and function-wise statistics, and budgetary estimates of various countries. According to the statistics provided by him, more than half of the satellites orbiting around the earth are for communication purposes. Also, the United States dominates commercial and military space. In this section, he undertook case studies of American, Chinese, Indian and Pakistani space programmes and provided a comparative perspective.

    As for an Indian military space programme, he argued that “sufficient space capability exists with India to meet the requirements of its defence forces.” He argued that the Indian armed forces should demand for dedicated satellite facilities only when ISRO is unable to fulfill their requirements. He made a case for one competent and qualified agency in each service Headquarters for space systems that should be fully responsible to conceptualize, plan and implement the project in totality. He recommended that Indian space strategy should be region-focused as its strategic concerns are basically regional. Aspiring for global reach through satellites is neither reasonable nor fesible for India. As to the question of security of space assets, he argued that much of the fear is misplaced. Identifying an enemy’s satellites orbiting around the earth and, then, damaging or destroying them is not that easy, technologically. He advised that instead of being over anxious about the safety and security of satellites in space, the somewhat neglected aspect of security of space assets on the ground requires greater attention because the operation of satellites depends upon space centres on the ground.

    Col. Deepak Sharma’s presentation was followed by a very fruitful discussion. Mr. Yadvendra Singh argued that the effective use of space military technology by the United States in recent wars has prompted other countries to develop this technology. He pointed out that the United States heavily used commercial satellites for military communications in the Gulf Wars. Thus, using commercial satellites for military purpose is also a part of strategy. He also pointed out that the consequences would be grave if satellite systems were to collapse even for a single day. The damage incurred by such a failure would be 100 times more than in a war. He said that sharing of space and allocating coordinates will be a major issue in international politics in future because countries cannot place their satellites in orbit arbitrarily. Notwithstanding the fact that India started its space odyssey relatively late, its progress in space science has been impressive. Further, he said that Chinese business acumen and hard-bargaining have benefited its space programme a lot. Likewise, the Indian space programme can also take advantage of the worldwide recession and exploit the opportunities presented by it.

    Col. Navjot Singh averred that Deepak Sharma has performed a commendable job by highlighting the significance of ground space assets. He said that Sharma’s presentation has given ample food for thought. He highlighted the need of adequate laws for the safety and security of space assets and penalization of violators.

    Dr. Pankaj Jha raised several meaningful questions. He wanted to know what India was doing to tackle its vulnerabilities? What international agreements were there to assuage vulnerabilities? What was the international position on debris in space? The other internal discussant Mr. Kartik Bommakanti raised an important methodological issue of academic citation and validation.

    Air Commodore (Retd.) R.V. Phadke said that Sharma’s paper has done yeoman service to the IDSA as the institution was ‘technologically challenged’ and had shown relatively less interest in such studies. He noted that this was the first time that India’s capabilities were discussed; otherwise the general trend has been to highlight deficiencies only.
    Finally, Col. Deepak Sharma answered many queries posed by various participants and said he would gladly accommodate many of the valuable suggestions in his final draft.

    The Chair, Dr. Arvind Gupta, wound up the session. In his remarks, he emphasized the point that the services would have to explain why they need dedicated satellites. He reiterated the point that our space and strategic community should start deliberating about rules of space sharing as it would be an important issue in times to come. Besides, the issue of debris has also the potential of becoming an important issue in international politics. India should not be caught in a NPT-like situation. Therefore, he insisted that there should be a national space policy.

    Report prepared by Dr. Prashant Kumar Singh