The Indian delegation led by A S Kiran Kumar, Associate Director of the Space Applications Centre (SAC), is here for the two-day 2014 Space Exploration Conference and Heads of Space Agency Summit, which among others is attended by heads of 30 top space agencies including those from China, Germany, the US and Russia.
However, the Indian delegation is neither represented at the ministerial level nor is led by the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) head Dr K Radhakrishnan. There has been no official explanation given for a relatively low level representation at such an international conference, fuelling speculation that it is probably influenced by the recent strain in India-US ties, following the arrest of senior Indian diplomat Devyani Khobragade in New York last month on alleged visa fraud charges.
The Indian participation in this important meeting today and tomorrow was described by the State Department as business as usual.
"We're welcoming an Indian delegation to the State Department tomorrow as part of the first ever international space exploration forum we announced earlier today," State Department Spokesperson Jen Psaki told reporters.
"So just important to note that we do have ongoing dialogues on a range of issues and we will schedule the energy dialogue at the appropriate time," Psaki said.
This came on a day on which this month's India trip of the US Energy Secretary was postponed. Psaki said India and the US have significant collaboration in the field of space exploration. One of the aspects of the Indian participation is expected to be its attendance in round table on space exploration, along with scientists from China, Sweden and the US, Dr Jean Michel Contant, Secretary General International Academy of Astronautics, said.
Founded in 1960, the president of IAA is now the former ISRO chairman Madhavan G Nair. At a news conference, Prof Jan Woerner, head of the German Aerospace Center, said that India is a leading space power in the world and praised India's success in a short span of time.
"India has its own launching capability and there are only a few countries which have this capability," Woerner told PTI in an interview on the eve of this prestigious conference.
"India has everything which is necessary for its space activities. For me India is not an emerging country in space. Not at all," he said, adding that Germany has intensive discussions with India with regard to its launches.
"We see India a partner, not a junior partner, not a senior partner," Woerner said. Noting that at the beginning, India was looking at direct benefits of space communication, he said, India is now looking beyond and moving towards space exploration -- Moon and Mars.