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Race to become space power: Where does India stand?

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New Delhi, July 01: If the world is heading towards the militarisation of space, then India would not want to be left behind. India sent a clear signal by conducting ASAT test in March that it is ready for space warfare, if that's where the global military superpowers are look at.

By showcasing the capability to physically destroy satellites in orbit and the decision to set up a Defence Space Agency (DSA), India has made a statement of sorts that it is ready for the future.

Race to become space power: Where does India stand?

In fact India's entire approach towards space exploration has been different compared to other leading nations. In the 60s and the 70s, the United States and the Soviet Union first began exploring space for military purposes. Those were the days of cold war, when both nations were hell bent of inventing news ways to fight the war. Projects such as Star-wars were proposed where the concept was to be able to fire missiles from space.

India's space endeavours began with civilian needs in mind. First satellites were developed for the purpose of weather forecast, telecommunications and remote sensing. It was only in the mid-1980s that technology from the Indian Space Research Organisation's (Isro) Satellite Launch Vehicle-3 was employed in the Agni ballistic missile.

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US, Russia and China have spy satellites in orbit to keep an eye on the enemy. Reconnaissance satellites are being used by militaries to take accurate pictures of their rivals' military installations. first dedicated military satellite was launched only in 2013.

India is locked in a regional competition with China for power and prestige. Occasional military skirmishes along an unsettled border that risk escalating tensions between the two nuclear powers have also become common.

Ever since China destroyed one of its own weather satellites, the FengYun-1C (FY-1C), in 2007, India has been wanting to showcase its technology to be able to do so. Within hours of its test, the Indian government released a "Frequently Asked Questions" webpage that explained why it had done an actual intercept instead of less destructive tests. The FAQ also went to great lengths to rationalize how the test did not change India's position on preventing an arms race in outer space.

March's anti-satellite (A-SAT) test is the first visible sign that India is on the road to acquire counter-space capability. The newly instituted DSA will be supported by a defence space research organization (DSRO) that should create weapons to "deny, degrade, disrupt, destroy or deceive an adversary's space capability".

How India will go from here remains to be seen. Weather India would take initiative and do more such tests or wait and see how the rest of the world goes about the space militarisation.

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