China’s long-term space ambitions articulate such a grand vision. It is in this context that space cooperation between the United States and India — the world’s oldest and the world’s largest democracies, respectively — acquires a strategic context and urgency.
Unlike U.S. Congressional restrictions on U.S.-China space cooperation, the United States and India are not affected by any such restrictions. Given the ways that their strategic partnership has improved over the years, it is rather a puzzle that their cooperation in space is not even closer and strategically aligned.
During U.S. President Donald Trump’s first visit to India on February 24-25, 2020, it is appropriate for space cooperation to be elevated to a higher realm, given both countries have similar long-term ambitions for a moon landing, and robotic exploration missions to Mars.
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Both the United States and India have made changes to their military space forces, with the U.S. establishing the Space Force and India constituting a Defence Space Agency. At the “Howdy Modi” event in Houston in September 2019, part of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s broader visit to the United States, Trump specified that “here in America, we are creating the United States Space Force, and we’re working closely with India to enhance space cooperation… we will pioneer new frontiers in space, working together, raising the sights of humanity. We will uphold our values, defend our liberty, and control our destiny.”
There are several strategic agreements and joint statements between the U.S. and India, across administrations, that can be utilised to enhance space cooperation. Some of these important agreements are the 2004 Next Step in Strategic Partnership (NSSP), the 2005 New Framework for the India-U.S. Defence Relationship, the 2005 India-U.S. civil nuclear deal, the Defence Technology and Trade Initiative (DTTI), as well as the Joint Strategic Vision for the Asia-Pacific and Indian Ocean Region.
The NSSP identifies the need for civil space cooperation with India. Both countries have established a U.S-India Joint Working Group on Civil Space Cooperation.