Donald Trump India visit: India and US strategic partnership in space and the need for SSA agreement

The United States and India, both major space powers, have long worked together on civil space efforts but have not done much in regards to security space cooperation.

According to Victoria Samson, Washington Office Director, Secure World Foundation, “This is a real missed opportunity, as each country has a lot to offer the other in terms of shoring up their national security and the stability of the space domain overall. Space has been a force multiplier for the United States for decades and is now considered to be a war-fighting domain.

India has not yet adopted that terminology, but is shifting its space efforts to include those with more military goals and objectives, and is increasingly giving more authority for space programs to its Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO).”

One way in which for the two to cooperate is through space situational awareness (SSA) agreement. “As of April 2019, STRATCOM (Strategic Command) had signed 100 SSA sharing agreements with 20 countries, two intergovernmental organizations, and 78 commercial owner/operators, but India is not one of those countries. Signing an agreement with India should be made a priority by STRATCOM leadership, particularly given that India is laying the groundwork for its own SSA network and also because of India’s growing prominence in launching multiple satellites at one time,” Samson says.

According to her, space should become a regular part of the bilateral discussions between the United States and India on security issues. There have been three space security dialogues, which is a good start, but space should also be incorporated in larger strategic and 2+2 discussions.

“Finally, it is so crucial for both the development and evolution of India’s space programme and for the US-India relationship in space that the Indian government formalize a national space policy and/or strategy, as that will expedite strategic partnership in space between the two countries,” concludes Samson.

India-US Space Cooperation

The top US companies including Boeing and Raytheon are in talks with the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO). Says Surendra Ahuja, Managing Director, Boeing Defence India (BDI), told Financial Express Online “We are proud of India’s recent strides in space exploration and ambitions towards human space flights by end of 2021.

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