Daily Editorial Analysis for 08th September 2022

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Time for a joint space exercise

GS Paper 3: Science and Technology, Security

Important For:

Prelims Exam: Space programmes

Mains Exam: Importance of Space in Defence

“If India is to become a defense power, then an Indo-U.S. military collaboration in every field is necessary”

Significance of India-US joint space military exercise

  • First, this single act will push India’s defense partnership into a new orbit.
  • Second, it will send a strong message to a common adversary.
  • Third, it will have other ripple effects for the wider Quad.

Importance of Space in India-US relations

Space has been singled out as a critical area of cooperation in the recent Defense Technology and Trade Initiative (DTTI) meeting between India and the U.S. For the first time in history, both countries are jointly staring at a common adversary. Nothing binds friends together as sharing the same displacement anxiety.

A military domain

Space as a military domain is a well-accepted fact.

  • In 2019, the U.S. stood up its space force as a branch under the department of the Air Force. At the time, it became the world’s only independent space force.
  • In India, historically, space has remained the sole jurisdiction of its civilian space agency, the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO). However, the successful demonstration (dubbed Mission Shakti) of anti-satellite (ASAT) missile test in 2019 changed things forever.
  • The same year, India conducted its first ever simulated space warfare exercise (IndSpaceX) with an eye on Chinese threats.
  • Furthermore, the launch of the tri-service Defence Space Agency (DSA) has permanently taken the military away from the shadows of civil space.
  • The government has also set up the Defence Space Research Agency (DSRA) to help develop space-based weapons for the DSA. Space is as much recognised as a military domain as land, water, air and cyber.

Extending drills to the fourth domain i.e., Space

India and the U.S. do drills on land, in air and at sea. Why not extend it to the fourth domain?

  • It is inevitable as both countries can expect the exact same conversation happening in their adversary’s strategy rooms.
  • It will have actionable spill overs for the Quad, transform the moribund DTTI from a talk shop and send the right message to the adversary.
  • The lowest hanging fruit would be a joint anti-satellite (ASAT) missile test.
  • Eventually, this will lead to other space military collaborations such as directed energy weapons, rendezvous and proximity operations (RPOs), co-orbital ASATs (in space micro satellites as a kinetic kill option), etc.

Space programmes by other countries

Every country worth its weight in salt is working on the military aspects of space.

  • France conducted its first space military exercise, ASTERX, in 2021.
  • China is marching ahead to the Cis-Lunar space (region beyond the geosynchronous orbit) with an ambition to establish a permanent presence on the Moon by 2024.

Space and Economy

Space has assets that form the bedrock of the modern economy — GPS (PNT — position navigation timing), telecom networks, early warning systems for missiles and weather forecasts all are enabled by our satellites in GEO or LEO orbits.

What could be the implications?

  • It will provoke our eastern neighbour and compel them to draw a new redline.
  • Our eastern neighbour will use our western neighbour as a proxy state.
  • It will derail the ongoing Core Commanders dialogue in Ladakh.
  • The United States cannot be trusted.
  • It will fastback militarisation for space.


Changing times now require us to innovate on doctrines, technologies and deterrence. China is on his way to building a “world-class” military by 2049. If India is to become a space power and if the Indo-U.S. partnership is to become the alliance of alliances, then imaginative steps will be needed. It is time for the India-U.S. military collaboration to get bolder and travel from mountains to outer heavens.

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