Wednesday, November 30, 2011
Why the US Needs India's Air Force ... my take on US-India military ties ... in today's The Diplomat
Here's an article of mine on US-India military ties, arguing for greater engagement between the Indian Air Force and the US Air Force. This has been published today as the lead article in The Diplomat.
Until now, the flag-bearers of U.S.-Indian military cooperation have been the two countries’ navies, a point that was highlighted during the response to the 2005 tsunami and subsequent reconstruction operations. In contrast, while there have been some joint exercises between their two air forces, the rationale for air force-to-air force cooperation appears to be neither understood nor appreciated in either capital.
During his visit to India last November, U.S. President Barack Obama characterized relations with India as “one of the defining and indispensable partnerships of the 21st century.” Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, in turn, stated that India had “decided to accelerate the deepening of our ties and to work as equal partners in a strategic relationship that will positively and decisively influence world peace, stability and progress.” Arguing that cooperation extended to India’s immediate neighborhood, Singh said the two countries “have a shared vision of security, stability and prosperity in Asia based on an open and inclusive regional architecture.”
But if the bilateral relationship really as is important as the two leaders suggest, then there’s undoubtedly a need for greater strategic synergy. In particular, the two countries’ militaries need to understand each other better if they are to work together for regional and global peace.
Until now, the flag-bearers of U.S.-Indian military cooperation have been the two countries’ navies, a point that was highlighted during the response to the 2005 tsunami and subsequent reconstruction operations. In contrast, while there have been some joint exercises between their two air forces, the rationale for air force-to-air force cooperation appears to be neither understood nor appreciated in either capital.
Indian strategic planners seem to be in broad agreement with their U.S. counterparts in identifying the big strategic challenges in the Asia-Pacific region, yet New Delhi has been reluctant to develop joint approaches in addressing many of these challenges.
The hope is, of course, that even if India is hesitant now, that it may change its mind over the next decade. After all, India’s interests, and its incapacity to address the challenges it faces on its own, seem bound to drive it towards the United States and Asian partners such as Japan and Australia.
Certainly, former U.S. President George W. Bush saw India as a significant pole in Asia, and close ties with India as being in U.S. interests – something that the Obama administration also seems to have recognized. Such views have prompted the United States to develop more formal defense cooperation and to talk about India in terms reserved for U.S. allies (something that causes some discomfort in New Delhi).
The most frequently cited reason for Washington’s interest in India is as a balancer to China, but this view is more complicated than many assume. For a start, the United States has a stake in the ongoing Sino-Indian border dispute. Although the U.S. is yet to take a position on the broader boundary and territorial dispute between the two countries, it certainly wouldn’t be in the interests of the United States to see a conflict break out – and especially to see India lose face in a military confrontation. China decided to teach India a lesson in their brief war in 1962. If this were repeated today, though, the U.S. would also be adversely affected as India’s perceived value as a regional ally would be diminished. A Chinese victory would also raise the question in the minds of smaller states over what hope they have in standing up to China if the United States stood by and watched as a major ally such as India was picked on. Such worries would undoubtedly undermine the United States’ position in Asia, and make China’s neighbors more susceptible to coercion.
But it’s not just about the negatives – India’s airpower can help underpin U.S. Pacific forces indirectly. For a start, a strong Indian Air Force would likely prompt China to focus at least part of its air power away from the Pacific and on the Tibet region. In addition, the Indian Air Force could also tip the scales in the Indo-Pacific by reducing the burden on the U.S. Air Force and providing security in the global commons. For instance, with a single air refueling, India’s SU-30MKI’s combat radius can include either the Straits of Malacca or the Persian Gulf.
Of course, it’s an open question whether India is willing to take such proactive steps. But co-operating more with the United States will help India feel more comfortable with future joint operations.
The reality is that both countries’ air forces face common threats, meaning it would benefit both to share data on a more regular basis and plan joint responses to any problems. The Indian Air Force, for instance, faces threats in its Northeastern sector similar to those facing the United States in the Western Pacific, namely ballistic missiles, advanced integrated air defense systems (IADS), 4th and 5th generation fighters, and increasingly sophisticated Chinese air-to-air missile and electronic warfare capabilities. All these developments increasingly impinge on both India and the United States, and it makes sense for the two to boost co-operation and learn lessons from each other’s experiences in the region.
Similarly, given the growing trend of India procuring U.S. weapons and equipment, greater engagement between their air forces would be particularly beneficial. Joint operations on democracy promotion, humanitarian missions, post disaster management and reconstruction are all ideal areas for joint operations.
But for any of this to occur, India must first recognize the potential for it to become a net provider of constructive airpower in the Indian Ocean Region. If India’s procurement plans go as planned, it could have a modern air force that will be highly capable of anything from disaster relief and humanitarian assistance to providing lethal combat air support.
At the end of the day, if India wants to sit at the high table of international diplomacy, it should be prepared to shoulder greater responsibilities and shed its risk averse foreign policy. Ramping up its air force co-operation seems a good place to start.
Tuesday, November 29, 2011
Here's an article by Michael Listner on the EU Code of Conduct and some of the Indian concerns, published yesterday by the Space Review. He has also cited my recent Occasional Paper on the subject.
The article says, "There has been no official comment to the response on the CoC from the international community outside of the European Union and the United States. However, open source material suggests that countries in the Asia Pacific Region, in particular India, have several concerns about the CoC, which could prevent them from adopting the measure."
There has been much debate in 2011 over the draft version of the European Union’s proposed Code of Conduct for Outer Space Activities (the CoC), released in October 2010. Since its release, the CoC has been analyzed by policy experts in several different forums including a panel discussion at the George Marshall Institute as well as the pages of this publication.1 Little has been said publically since the flurry of analysis in the first half of the year due in no small part to the State Department and other branches of the United States government’s review of the CoC in lieu of formal adoption by the United States.
Countries in the Asia Pacific Region, in particular India, have several concerns about the CoC, which could prevent them from adopting the measure.
The FAA’s Commercial Space Transportation Advisory Committee’s Space Transportation Operations Working Group (STOWG) met on August 4, 2011, and featured an update on the CoC by Richard Buenneke, Senior Advisor, Space Policy for the US Department of State.2 At that time Mr. Bunneke informed STOWG that the CoC was under review by the Department of Defense and that the United States remained interested in the CoC, but it was not prepared to sign the document in 2011. According to Mr. Bunneke, the European Council continued to present the CoC to the international community for consideration. The CoC was slated for adoption in 2012, but that deadline has been pushed back indefinitely.
There has been no official comment to the response on the CoC from the international community outside of the European Union and the United States. However, open source material suggests that countries in the Asia Pacific Region, in particular India, have several concerns about the CoC, which could prevent them from adopting the measure.
Indian concerns with the CoC
Dr. Rajeswari Rajagopalan, Senior Fellow at the Observer Research Foundation in New Delhi, India, presented an occasional paper in October 2011 discussing the CoC and India’s perspectives on it.3 Dr. Rajagopalan’s paper presents concerns that India and the Asian nations have with the current form of the CoC and whether those can concerns can be addressed to their satisfaction. Six fundamental concerns can be discerned from Dr. Rajagopalan’s dissertation: the non-binding nature of the CoC, repetition of and intrusion into a country’s domestic space policies, the failure of the EU to consult Asian countries when drafting the CoC, failure of the CoC to address the geopolitical realities of the Asian sphere of influence, ambiguity of terms and phrases within the CoC, and administration of the CoC. Each of these are briefly addressed below.
India’s prominent concern with the EU’s approach is the CoC’s lack of a legally binding mechanism, which is a long-standing requirement of some of the Asian counties. India takes the position that in order to be workable, the CoC requires a legal framework, an enforcement and verification mechanism, and a penalty mechanism for countries violating the CoC. The lack of legally binding measures is seen by the Asian countries as a weakness that will undermine and eventually defeat the CoC’s purpose.
Associated with the concern that the CoC is not legally binding is its voluntary nature and that its precepts replicate existing policies. Most of the principles and guidelines proposed in the CoC already exist either in the national space policies of some of the countries involved with the CoC or in bilateral and multilateral transparency and confidence building measures (TCBMs). Suggesting that countries adopt policies consistent with the CoC may also be considered an intrusion to the domestic policy-making of countries, who are already developing policies on their own initiative.
Another concern of India is EU’s omission to consult with India and the other Asian nations when the CoC was devised. This lapse is considered enough to preclude India and the other Asian countries from signing on to an otherwise acceptable instrument. India considers the inclusion of the spacefaring nations of Asia to be a crucial element during the creation of the CoC, especially considering that the fastest growing space programs are among the Asian countries, and it is among those countries where most new challenges relating to outer space will materialize.
Related to the India’s concern of exclusion in the creation of the CoC is the viewpoint that it is essential that the EU and the Western nations address the realities of geopolitics in the Asia-Pacific region. These considerations will prescribe suggestions from India and the Asian nations to amend the CoC, and not the other way around. The geopolitical realities of the Asia-Pacific region would translate into new terms and conditions in the CoC that are not currently within it, but what those interests are varies among the Asian nations, which could further complicate amendment to the CoC.
Amendments to the CoC could fundamentally alter its nature and estrange Western countries, such as the United States, from adopting it.
The ambiguous manner by which the CoC is written is another concern for India. Many phrases within the CoC are open to interpretation, and while phrases and terms contained within the current draft of the CoC may be interpreted one way by the members of the EU or the United States, those same phrases and terms could be construed in a different manner by Asian countries, including India. This concern is magnified by the possibility that countries with substantial diplomatic and political clout such as the United States or China could dictate how vague sections are interpreted to the detriment of countries such as India.
Finally, the question of who will administer the CoC once it is implemented is a prominent one in the eyes of India. India views administration of the CoC as feasible only by an authority that has the benefit of ample hard power and diplomatic clout. However, India sees the EU, which would be the likely choice as the administering authority of the CoC, as lacking in both these qualities. This calls into question the effectiveness of the CoC from India’s point of view.
Impact of Asian concerns
The concerns enunciated by Dr. Rajagopalan and the alterations to the CoC that India and the other Asian countries may seek before signing are the type that panelists hosted by the George Marshall Institute expressed concern about when asked whether the United States should adopt the CoC. During that discussion, the panelists were all of the opinion that the United States should not sign onto the CoC until other countries recommend their changes to CoC, perhaps explaining why the United States has delayed indefinitely its adoption of the instrument.4
Beyond the concerns that India and the Asian countries have articulated about the CoC, there is the issue of whether those concerns can be addressed by amendment of the CoC without altering its nature and structure. Amendments to the CoC could fundamentally alter its nature and estrange Western countries, such as the United States, from adopting it. For example, if the CoC was transformed from a non-binding confidence-building measure to a legally binding international accord, the United States may object and refuse to adopt it since signing it would implicate its national space policy with regard to signing onto outer space security treaties.
Continuing to persuade the PRC to accept measures such as the CoC is futile and will only make the process of persuading others to adopt such measures more difficult.
There is also the issue of the stance the People’s Republic of China (PRC) has taken with certain precepts of the CoC. In particular, the PRC has taken the position that the issue of orbital space debris should not be included in the CoC. The PRC also objects to the CoC’s insistence that states who adopt the CoC share information on their domestic national space policies, including objectives for security and defense related activities. There is little chance the PRC’s “no” will turn to a “yes” on these two issues, so the EU is faced with the option of diminishing the CoC to accommodate the PRC or having the PRC refuse to adopt the accord. If the success of the CoC is dependent on the PRC adopting it, then the EU could be disappointed.
How any amendment of the CoC to address Indian and other Asian concerns will impact US national space policy is also a concern. US diplomatic efforts are presently focused on addressing outer space security issues through redefined and repurposed TCBMs instead of legally-binding treaties.5 The current US interest in the CoC—effectively a TCBM—is one path of that policy, with a more robust effort intended for engaging other countries via the United Nations. Many of the concerns articulated by India about the CoC can apply equally to the planned application of TCBMs in the UN and effectively derail the United State’s effort should those concerns be amended into the CoC.
The EU is faced with the possibility that the CoC in its current form will not accommodate the concerns of the Asian countries without substantially altering the nature of the instrument. This possibility is not lost on India, and one of India’s considerations, aside from adopting the CoC, is to develop a code of their own. Such a code could take a similar form to the CoC and would address a significant portion of the concerns enunciated by India and the Asian countries, with the bonus of having an indigenous accord reflecting Asian interests instead of an instrument drafted from the viewpoint of Western geopolitics. It is plausible that such a code could coexist with the CoC. The dual-code approach could parallel each other in some areas and distinguish themselves to address issues that are relevant to their respective geopolitical and security situations.
Another alternative that could allow for a greater integration of Asian concerns into the CoC is for the EU and the United States to face the reality that the PRC is not going to acquiesce to the precepts of the CoC nor will it ever adopt it. This assertion is highlighted by Dean Cheng, Research Fellow for Asian Studies at the Heritage Foundation, where he dispels the myth that the PRC is interested in cooperation in space by noting that the PRC is engaged with a power competition with the United States, and space is a major venue of that competition. The upshot of this is that the PRC is unlikely to be swayed by proposals of codes of conduct or symbolic meetings with space officials from the United States.6
Policymakers from the EU and the United States would do well to face this reality, particularly in the context of the CoC. Continuing to persuade the PRC to accept measures such as the CoC is futile and will only make the process of persuading others to adopt such measures more difficult. If the EU and the US are serious about adopting the CoC, they must acknowledge that the PRC has no intention of engaging in good faith negotiations over the CoC and instead focus their efforts on addressing the concerns of countries such as India, which has a better chance of reaching consensus with the EU on its own absent the presence of the PRC at the negotiating table.
It is plausible that the current form of the CoC may not be able to accept amendment without substantially altering it.
Beyond TCBMs, including measures such as the CoC, an effective way to establish a “code of conduct” is through legally binding agreements. This author postulated shortly after the collision of Iridium 33 and Cosmos 2251 in February 2009 that bilateral accords defining conduct for outer space activities would be an effective means of preventing incidents in outer space more so than a treaty banning “space weapons.”7 Accords defining conduct have been implemented in maritime law and have opened a line of dialogue between the parties that have prevented incidents and subsequent escalations that could have led to full-blown confrontations.
Applying this concept to outer space activities would differentiate itself from the CoC and the current approach to TCBMs by the United States. Since these agreements would be legally binding, countries such as India would be more inclined to enter them, and it would eliminate the objection of the Russian Federation likely to leveled at the current track of United States space policy. Bilateral treaties negotiated between two countries would also avoid the multiplicity of converging cultural and geopolitical differences encountered during the negotiation of multilateral accords, and they could be tailored to satisfy the national space policy’s requirement that any treaties be equitable and verifiable.
Whether the CoC is ultimately adopted depends in no small measure how it originators address the concerns of India and the Asian nations. It is plausible that the current form of the CoC may not be able to accept amendment without substantially altering it. If that is the case, the EU and United States must resist the impulse to strong-arm these nations into otherwise adopting the CoC. Alternatively, if the concerns of India and other Asian nations cannot be addressed within the framework of the CoC, then the EU and the United States need to be prepared to consider measures other than the CoC to address security and cooperation in outer space.
1 Jeff Foust, “Debating a code of conduct for space”, The Space Review, March 7, 2011.
2 Michael Listner, “Update on the proposed European Code of Conduct”, The Space Review, August 8, 2011.
3 Dr. Rajeswari Rajagopalan, Debate on Space Code of Conduct: An Indian Perspective, Observer Research Foundation, ORF Occasional Paper #26, October 2011.
4 “Codes of Conduct in Space: Considering the Impact of the EU Code on U.S. Security in Space.”, George Marshall Institute, February 4, 2011.
5 Michael Listner, “TCBMs: A New Definition and New Role for Outer Space Security”, Defense Policy.Org, July 7, 2011.
6 Dean Cheng, “Five Myths About China’s Space Program”, The Heritage Foundation, September 29, 2011.
7 Michael Listner, “A bilateral approach from maritime law to prevent incidents in space”, The Space Review, February 16, 2009.
Friday, November 4, 2011
Shared Goals, Converging Interests: A Plan for U.S.-Australia-India Cooperation in the Indo-Pacific: A Joint Report from Heritage, Lowy & ORF
Here's a quick synopsis of "Shared Goals, Converging Interests: A Plan for U.S.-Australia-India Cooperation in the Indo-Pacific" is a joint project report from the Heritage Foundation, the Lowy Institute for International Policy and the ORF, launched at the Lowy today and going to be launched at the ORF on November 07. The report has six authors -- Lisa Curtis, Walter Lohman, Rory Medcalf, Lydia Powell, Andrew Shearer -- including me.
The U.S., Australia, and India face common challenges and opportunities in the Indo-Pacific region that are defined by their shared values and interests. These include sea-lane security, counterterrorism, nonproliferation, among others. A formal trilateral dialogue gives these three countries an opportunity to understand and act together to address current and future challenges more effectively. Such an attempt to arrive at a mutual understanding of each others' concerns will help promote the Indo-Pacific as an area conducive to economic and political stability, security, free and open trade and democratic governance.
For the full report, click here.
Friday, October 28, 2011
ORF has published my Occasional Paper on the Space Code of Conduct Debate: An Indian Perspective.
Clearly there is a need to frame a code that is acceptable to all space-faring nations and India is all for setting norms of behaviour. However, whether India should get on board the EU Code -- a code that has been developed with no consultation of India or any other spacefaring nation-- is an issue. This Paper assesses the concerns of Asian countries, especially India, on the code proposed by the European Union while analysing India's options in this regard.
For the full report, click here.
Wednesday, September 21, 2011
Here's a link to the analysis on how China walks the US-India space-based solar power dream, written by Rahul and me for the ORF.
While India and the US make pledges about potential collaboration on space, others walk those promises and potentials. In the India-US context, space has remained a potential area of cooperation for the last decade or so whereas China, which has studied the Indo-US joint communications carefully, has made fast progress on space-based solar power (SBSP), in terms of devoting financial and human resources into the project.
The need of the hour is for democracies like India, US and may be even Japan to come together, structure large collaborations around space and capture the political space in this regard. The political leadership in both India and the US should recognise the importance of it and act accordingly before it is too late.
Recognising the spin-off benefits of space-based solar power, China recently unveiled a plan to build and orbit a solar power station for commercial use by 2040. The Chinese plan drawn by one of its space pioneers Wang Xiji is an ambitious one and aims to look at various aspects of space-based solar power applications, designs and key technologies that would make the option economically feasible in the first instance and sustainable by 2020. Detailing the research conducted by the China Academy of Sciences, Wang said at the fourth China Energy Environment Summit Forum: "The development of solar power station in space will fundamentally change the way in which people exploit and obtain power. Whoever takes the lead in the development and utilization of clean and renewable energy and the space and aviation industry will be the world leader."
Given China's rising energy requirements, it is imperative that Beijing look at alternate sources of energy to meet its enormous demand. By 2050, it is estimated that China would have an energy gap of approximately 10.5 percent which it would seek to fill in by exploring alternate sources of energy such as fusion and space power stations. Also, the greenhouse gas emissions and climate change considerations have become serious enough concerns for the international community. These factors have also pushed Beijing to invest more in low-carbon energy sources. SBSP is possibly on top of the options list for China given the safety concerns vis-à-vis nuclear energy, particularly after the Fukushima crisis. According to the China Academy of Space Technology (CAST), the Solar Power Satellites (SPS) and solar power applications will help China in sustaining its economic and social development, disaster prevention and mitigation and would also assist in retention of qualified personnel.
China has been working on this concept for several years with CAST spearheading its research work. After the initial feasibility report compiled by CAST, a concept design for the SPS was submitted to China's Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, which eventually gave the approval and funding for the design. According to CAST, the SPS development includes four parts - satellite launching, in-orbit construction/multi-agents, efficient conversion of solar energy and wireless transmission. Apart from the launch factor, an area where China has excelled significantly, other parts of the project will demand greater effort for development.
While China's lead in the SBSP could provide for a co-operative framework in Asia, the geopolitical realities and the inherent problems in Asia - competition, rivalry and mistrust - may hamper such collaboration in the near future.
Under such a scenario, there lies a strong imperative for India, the US and other like-minded democracies to come together and realise the SBSP utilisation dream. This will not only provide economic gains but also give a strategic advantage in the changing security environment in Asia. For India, such collaboration would meet its growing energy demand and provide other spinoff benefits like job creation and access to advanced technology, much-needed for sustaining India's growth story. It is estimated that India's energy requirements would double by 2030, making it imperative for it to explore other feasible options. Also, if India becomes a part of the process of realising the SBSP dream, it will augment India's position in Asia as well as the world as a responsible leader.
The political consensus for India and the US to collaborate in space already exists although it appears that each side has been leaving it to the other to take the initiative and materialise the potential. The US-India Agreement to establish an S&T Board and an endowment for research provides the apparatus needed for starting the SBSP research and development. This fund can finance a broad number of issues of mutual interest such as bio technology, advanced materials and nanotechnology science, clean energy technologies, basic space, atmospheric and earth science. SBSP easily fits into the sphere of issues supported by this fund. As far as other funding options are concerned, private sector companies on both sides have shown interest in exploring the SBSP option. US companies like Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman and Tata in India have shown positive signs. Other countries like Japan have also done considerable research in this field. Japan's Aerospace Exploration Agency has done decade-long research on SBSP in collaboration with high-end technological companies such as Mitsubishi. Collaboration among these countries would also facilitate funding for this ambitious project.
While China may not have developed the best model in terms of cost effectiveness, it will surely send out a strong message to the international community about China's capabilities in developing such technologies and its ambitions to become the global leader in space solar power harnessing. If China wins the race in developing SBSP as a feasible source of energy, which would meet the world's growing energy demand, it will result in huge economic and strategic gains for China.
It is now time for both India and the US to explore the opportunity seriously and not let prospects for cooperation remain only as prospects. Hopefully, the advent of China into the picture would give the much-needed push for both countries to actually start real-time development work on SBSP.
Tuesday, August 23, 2011
Here's the link to an article of mine on the new Chinese aircraft carrier published by ORF.
China's ability for air and sea power projection in its neighbourhood is significant and growing, and its first aircraft carrier is another indicator. The carrier would provide China the ability to project its power even farther.
Earlier this month, the PLA Navy (PLAN) began the sea trials of its first aircraft carrier, the refurbished Varyag. Senior Colonel Li Xiaoyan, a member of China's first warship academy class in 1987, is set to command the ship while three other officers have been appointed as Deputy Captains. Besides there are seven other senior officers who have reportedly undergone training at the Guangzhou Naval Academy since 2008 and dispatched to Varyag in December 2010. Li has been chosen as the commander given that he is one of the first who could both pilot aircraft and sail warships.
While details are still awaited, a picture
available of the aircraft carrier also does not reveal much. However, it seems in line with what Can Weidong of the PLA Navy's Academic Research Institute had said, that it will be a "conventionally powered medium-sized carrier that would be equipped with Chinese engines, aircraft, radar and other hardware."
What is likely to be the utility of aircraft carrier to China? Does it enhance Chinese security significantly? And, how does the Varyag impact upon Indian interests or the larger Asian security framework?
Varyag, a Soviet-era carrier not very old, relative to other carriers, was bought from Ukraine in 1998 and underwent serious rework and refitting at a shipyard in Dalian in Liaoning Province. While there was no doubt that China will have its own aircraft carrier, the world has gone wrong in their assessments as far as the timeline was concerned. Many of the western assessments had calculated that Beijing will have its first carrier by 2012 or so. However, today the aircraft carrier is only undergoing initial sea trials, possibly checking the engines (it is not clear yet whether it uses the gas turbine, steam turbine or marine diesel engine. China does not yet have indigenous gas or steam turbine production capabilities and it is not believed to have procured these engines from foreign sources.), navigation equipment, electronics fire control and maintenance operations. But they are a long way away from carrying fighter jets. It is no surprise because no aircraft carrier carries planes on such early trials. It will be years before they have a carrier battle group comprising a consolidated group of frigates, destroyers, submarines and other accessories.
What does an aircraft carrier mean for China? Aircraft carriers have significant utility in enforcing sea control and sea denial strategies given the importance of air power superiority in combat, especially for power projection purposes. Having an aircraft carrier in its armoury does not mean much as yet and China is years away from being capable of even effective sea denial strategy in the East Asian region. However, as a rising power, China will possess such capabilities and more in the future. If there are no serious hitches, the PLAN plans to induct the carrier into service by October 2012, though this sounds ambitious.
China's plans to induct an aircraft carrier is in perfect alignment with the assertive naval posturing that it has been displaying vis a vis its neighbours in the recent years - be it the East China Sea or the South China Sea. In fact, aircraft carrier would provide Beijing with what it apparently sees as the coercive means for enforcing its claims in these two seas. Reportedly, a Chinese defence ministry-run website made it clear to say that the carrier should handle territorial disputes as well. A PLA Daily article too noted that in a theatre like the South China Sea, the strategic manoeuvre that is possible with a carrier would provide them the ability to apply significant air-to-ground firepower during military missions, while not being affected by geographical restrictions. They in fact see the aircraft carrier as a "mobile maritime airport." Chinese strategists believe that such kind of "deterrent" abilities would be important in defending the high seas as well as the coastal waters.
The timing is curious too. They flight-tested their stealth fighter during the US Defence Secretary's visit; and this time they decided to conduct the aircraft carrier sea trials around the same time as US Vice President Joe Biden's visit. It is unclear if this is a coincidence or a signal to the US.
What does the Chinese aircraft carrier mean for India and other neighbours? In the first place, it would induce caution in other maritime powers in the region, particularly India, US and Japan. China's submarine force already has produced this effect on these powers; the aircraft carrier would compound it.
As for the Southeast Asian countries, the Chinese aircraft carrier would be a display of power and prestige. In fact, a PLA Daily article said that the aircraft carrier has far greater political significance than military significance. This is particularly important given that until a few years back, the PLAN was the weakest wing of the Chinese military. But this has changed now with greater attention in favour of the naval and air wing of the military. China believes that aircraft carriers are important if they want to be able to control the air and have effective presence in areas that may be away from its territorial limits. Display of power and prestige is important both for the internal and external audiences.
Analysts have talked about China's ability to conduct anti-submarine warfare against Indian nuclear submarines although it is too early to judge this yet. However, China's ability for air and sea power projection in its neighbourhood is significant and growing, and the aircraft carrier is another indicator. The carrier would provide China the ability to project its power even farther. China has already begun anti-piracy operations off the waters of Somalia and refuelling in the Karachi port. An aircraft carrier would provide them far greater options in the near future.
Sunday, August 7, 2011
Here's my OpEd, "How to Deal with China-A View Point from India" in yesterday's morning edition of Mainichi Daily (Japanese).
Type rest of the post here
Wednesday, July 27, 2011
Here's an anaysis on the recent U.S.-India strategic dialogue from the space perspective ... citing me. The link is also available at Space Today.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was welcomed warmly in India on
what may well be her final trip there as a senior U.S. government
official. From a space perspective, assuming a more productive outcome
was somehow achievable, this trip never reached its intended orbit. It
never even came close.
For example, in her lengthy column in The Pioneer - "India-US display
space blindness" - Dr. Rajeswari Pillai Rajagopalan, a senior fellow
at the Observer Research Foundation, made her unhappiness about this
lost opportunity in this instance quite clear.
She lamented that no clear goal, no bilateral funding, and certainly,
no new public-private partnerships were forged. She identified several
"cutting edge areas" where cooperation could occur including "space
access, in-space maneuver, space logistics, space infrastructure, etc."
Any chance for job creation was lost in the process, she said.
And she concluded as well that what is needed is, "another big idea to
steer the relationship and take it to the next level." Space
cooperation never surfaced as a viable option, however.
A U.S. Department of State fact sheet entitled, "U.S.-India Science,
Technology and Innovation Cooperation" tried to put a positive spin on
"Indian Space Research Organization: The United States and India are
committed to building closer ties in space exploration, space science
and earth observation. Both countries are dedicated to using their
space programs to expand the frontiers of scientific knowledge and
produce tangible benefits for their populations. The removal of Indian
Space Research Organization (ISRO) and subordinate agencies from the
Entities List in February 2011 marked a significant step in eliminating
remaining barriers to greater cooperation in space exploration and
"Civil Space Working Group: By exchanging and utilizing satellite-based
scientific data about the Earth, its climate, weather, and geophysical
features, the United States and India are working together to share
information on tropical weather, monsoon forecasting and climate
change. At the July 13-14 Civil Space Working Group, the two countries
took steps towards their cooperation in this area by concluding
substantive discussion on Oceansat-II and Megha-Tropiques missions,
which will help the countries refine scientific models and improve
understanding of global weather patterns."
The India-US joint statement issued in New Delhi on July 19 mentioned
the session held by the US – India Joint Space Working Group on Civil
Space Cooperation in Bangalore.
"Building on the successful Chandrayan-1 lunar mission, NASA and ISRO
reviewed potential areas for future cooperation in earth observation,
space exploration, space sciences and satellite navigation. Both sides
agreed for early finalization three new implementing arrangements for
sharing satellite data on oceans and global weather patterns.
Recognising the research opportunities available on the International
Space Station, both sides agreed to explore the possibilities of joint
experiments. NASA reiterated its willingness to discuss potential
cooperation with ISRO on human spaceflight activities. The two sides
also agreed to expand upon previous work in the area of global
navigation satellite systems (GNSS) with the goal of promoting
compatibility and interoperability between the US Global Positioning
System, India’s Navigation systems, and those of other countries."
Keep in mind that during her speech at the Anna Centenary Library in
Chennai, Sec. Clinton knew full well that here reference to "deepening
our defense cooperation" could soon swing the door wide open as far as
the U.S. space connection to India's Defence Research and Development
Organisation (DRDO) is concerned, although someone has to unlock the
Was it merely a coincidence that at the start of the very same day,
India elected to test-fire one of its newest shorter range, tactical
missiles known as the `Prahaar', and that Defence Minister AK Antony
sent his congratulations to the DRDO before Sec. Clinton stepped to the
Otherwise, the overall timing of this trip was simply not right for any major announcements regarding U.S. - Indian space relations.
Was it because the ASEAN Regional Forum was looming? No, the U.S. and China were both navigating carefully already anyway, and aside from a few rhetorical salvos, no U.S. attempt to bolster India's standing in space would have proven too disruptive to those talks.
What about Sec. Clinton's mention of the inauguration of a trilateral
U.S.-India-Japan dialogue in Chennai? Sure, this could yield profound
consequences in space, but here again, the realities of the Indian
nuclear deals represent an enormous counterweight.
In the end, no pressing foreign policy concerns along with the latest U.S. attempts to outmaneuver the Chinese at sea are are not what probably caused the Obama administration to ease back on the throttle here. India's nuclear sector was not the determining factor either.
In fact, Indian commentators generally overlooked the state of disarray permeating the U.S. space sector as a whole. As thousands of U.S. space workers at NASA and major space contractors were being handed pink slips, President Obama in his quest for a second term no doubt did not think it to be a wise idea to be seen as someone who was crafting an aggressive space partnering campaign with India - placing even more American jobs in jeopardy. One might argue that so what given that President Obama has no supporters left in the U.S, space sector today, but that is simply not true.
So, did domestic political considerations shape the relatively sparse menu of space offerings in this instance? This cannot be dismissed altogether.
On the other hand, India might want to weigh the possible repercussions of what NASA was undertaking on the ISS as well. One of the best American commentators active in the "New Space" sector issued a cautionary note this past week, something that readers and space planners in India and elsewhere simply cannot ignore.
In his latest newsletter, Charles Lurio included a section on,
"Refueling Experiment and Issues of Commercialization"
Lurio outlined how the “Robotic Refueling Mission” (RRM) which was
carried aloft by the last Shuttle flight earlier this month includes an
“activity board” designed for use by the Canadian-built “Dextre”
robotic system which is already aboard the ISS.
Lurio proceeds to highlight the RRM's testing of technology and
procedures required for refueling, “even [of] satellites not designed
to be serviced.”
So on top of everything else, as India emphasizes its heavy rockets,
and lays the groundwork for Indian launchers to be adorned with
countless new large payloads, NASA stands ready to extend the life of
the entire space infrastructure not just GEOs - we are only talking
about roughly 290 GEO satellites on station today - and restructuring
the entire satellite food chain in the process.
Sorry, but what went on during this trip - that is the last Shuttle
mission to the ISS with the RRM aboard - might end up exerting far more
influence on the Indian space sector in the years to come than Sec.
Clinton's final mission to India.
India's solution in the face of these and other variables could be to
react accordingly - forego partnerships promised but not secured while
innovating like crazy - adapting again to a new set of challenges.
In a recent story in Space News, I was cited ... rather my argument as to why space has not gained traction between India and the United States as yet. This is one area with tremendous potential and least controversies although it has remained an area with lot of promises.
Space cooperation represents an enormous opportunity to strengthen ties between the United States and India, but neither side appears to recognize this potential, Rajeswari Pillai Rajagopalan writes in a July 22 op-ed in India’s Pioneer newspaper.
A joint statement at the conclusion of recent talks in Bangalore failed to produce what was needed, she writes: “a bilateral 21st century commercial space initiative or a Space Knowledge Initiative, thereby making space an attractive proposition for entrepreneurs.”
“India and the US need to be more innovative and visionary and identify cutting edge areas to cooperate,” writes Rajagopalan, a senior fellow at the Observer Research Foundation. “There are plenty of candidates: areas like space access, in-space maneuver, space logistics, space infrastructure, etc. This would have several spin-off effects in terms of creating a human resource pool well-versed in dealing with future challenges.”
Here's an analysis of mine on the recent (Indian) MOD decision not to send Indian Army Chief for the Pacific meet of Army Chiefs in Singapore, published by ORF. Indian decision-makers appear to live in splendid isolation and do not recognise the importance of meetings like the Pacific Army Chiefs Conference. These meetings have become more institutionalised and are likely to gain greater momentum.
Indian Army Chief General VK Singh should have been in Singapore this week for a meeting of the Army Chiefs from all the Pacific countries. The meeting, the biennial Pacific Army Chiefs Conference sponsored by the U.S. Pacific Command (July 28-31, 2011), would have been an ideal platform for army chiefs in the region to start conversations outside of formal meetings. It is reported that Pakistan and China are represented by their respective army chiefs; so is the case with almost all other invited and participating countries. So far, there is a confirmed participation of around 23 Army Chiefs whereas India has decided to stick to its earlier policy of sending only Vice Chief to attend the Conference (the only exception was in 2009 when Army Chief Gen. Kapoor had attended). This also raises the protocol issue as to how and whether other army chiefs would meet and have meaningful meetings with the Indian Army Vice Chief.
Indian decision-makers appear to live in splendid isolation and do not recognise the importance of such meetings that have become more institutionalised and are likely to gain greater momentum over time. Intentionally or otherwise, India is clearly losing out on opportunities and opportunities don't come knocking every day.
Is India averse to accepting a leadership role in Asia and beyond? On the one hand, we cry hoarse for a UN Security Council seat, but on the other we are not even willing to be part of new forums and initiatives in Asia that are gaining strength year after year. In fact, the Indian leadership ought to recognize that traditional alliances and partnerships have almost entirely been replaced by the new floating partnerships, based on issues rather than any permanent interests. One good illustration is the role of China on the North Korean nuclear issue. China has become the "interlocutor" for the outside world to engage with Pyongyang. While there is no dearth of conflictual issues between China and the U.S., Washington has understood the game, as it deals with the North Korean imbroglio. Therefore, India has to recognise that it has to become part of these regional groupings and forums if it wants to play a meaningful role in Asia and beyond. A revamp of Indian thinking in dealing with the external world has become urgent if India wants to play a greater global role.
Why is the Singapore forum important? As mentioned earlier, it provides a platform for bilateral and multilateral engagements with a region that is of critical importance. Some of the Southeast Asian countries appear to be more keen today than India is in deepening its engagement with the region. The Vietnamese leadership, for instance, has been arguing for a closer partnership with India; in fact, members of the military or civilian defence bureaucracy have visited India, in an effort to bring New Delhi closer to Hanoi. They are reported to have offered India Vietnamese naval base for use although India is yet to take a decision on it.1 It appears that India is yet again willing to lose an opportunity. Take the case of Hambantota Port development project in Sri Lanka. It was first offered to India by Sri Lanka. After getting no positive response, Sri Lanka went ahead and offered it to China. However till date, India holds it against the Sri Lankan leadership as a hostile move on the part of Colombo. India has to recognize that it has to get its act together and become more responsive and responsible if it does not want to lose crucial strategic space in Asia.
Unless India is willing to come out of the cocoon and adapt itself to the changing geostrategic games, New Delhi can forget about taking a seat at the high table. Indian leadership should also be reminded that it will be forced to take hard decisions once they assume positions of power. As a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council, India is already confronted with difficult choices. So, it may be good to check whether it would like to be in a such position or is it going to be happily contended staying just as another South Asian nation.
1 For the Vietnamese offer, see Malcolm Moore and Praveen Swami, "Vietnam Offers Navy Base to Foil China," The Telegraph (U.K.), November 08, 2010, available at http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/asia/vietnam/8116192/Vietnam-offers-navy-base-to-foil-China.html. As part of the deal, India is to assist Vietnamese Army in jungle warfare.
Monday, July 25, 2011
Here's the OpEd written by Dr. WP Sidhu on the recently concluded second US-India Strategic Dialogue, citing me. Space is a relatively non-controversial area for the two countries to step up their cooperation .... However, despite the intent on both sides, space remains an area of promises and no hard decisions.
The recently concluded Indo-US dialogue—only the second—reflects both a deepening and widening of the bilateral engagement. What used to be rare high level visits have now become routine and, to a degree, predictable. At the same time the range of issues being discussed have enlarged to include cooperation on counterterrorism, cyber security, open government, space, peacekeeping, food security in Africa and even women’s empowerment.
Predictably, there has been a focus on the most contentious issues, notably over the differences related to the Indo-US nuclear cooperation and the troublesome state of Pakistan. However, it is important to note that in the absence of such a dialogue these difficult issues would have continued to fester; the regular meetings provides a forum to at least talk through these. Indeed, it is inevitable that even a strategic dialogue is likely to focus on immediate issues of concern partly because they are unavoidable and partly because they have strategic implications. To that extent, because the dialogue focused on the most immediate concerns it was to a degree successful at least at the tactical level.
At the strategic level, however, neither New Delhi nor Washington appears to be any closer to answering the critical question: where would they like to see this strategic partnership 50 years from now? Once the two sides have reached a common understanding a related question would be: how to get there? Given the ongoing internal, regional and international transformation these are difficult questions for either India or the US to answer, although Washington might have a better sense of its objective.
Clearly, to be truly effective a strategic dialogue must focus on at least one or two grand long-term ideas which are mutually beneficial, along with the other issues that now make up the agenda. The nuclear deal was the big idea of the previous decade. However, the growing obsession by both sides over the divergences on this issue has the potential to weaken if not derail the strategic dialogue.
Today, with the last flight of the US space shuttle, which coincided with the strategic dialogue, there is a real opportunity to develop an ambitious Indo-US civil space cooperation programme; an idea first floated by Indian and American scholars a few years ago and further developed by Indian expert Rajeshwari Pillai Rajagopalan recently. Although the space shuttle was a technical marvel —losing only two ships in its 30-year and 135-flight history—it was also incredibly expensive. According to one estimate, while each flight was advertised to cost around $10 million, in reality it worked out to about $1.2 billion per flight. In contrast, the Indian space programme despite being far more frugal has also notched up some incredible achievements. The discovery of water on the moon by the Indian spacecraft Chandrayaan-1 is one such accomplishment. It also underlines that unmanned missions are probably a more efficient (if less glamorous) way to explore and develop space. Interestingly, Hillary Clinton’s last stop in Chennai, where she exhorted India to be more ambitious and assertive, is also the source of some of Nasa’s best scientists and technicians. It would have provided the ideal setting to announce a commercial space initiative, similar to the agricultural knowledge initiative.
Indeed, of the various joint working groups that make up the Indo-US strategic dialogue, the joint space working group has probably been the least ambitious. Instead of a bold cooperative initiative it merely agreed to sharing satellite data on oceans and global weather patterns; explore the possibilities of joint experiments on the International Space Station; and discuss potential cooperation between Nasa and Isro on human spaceflight activities.
It is imperative for both sides to seize the opportunity to make the dialogue truly strategic and space may prove to be the final frontier.
W. Pal Sidhu is senior fellow, Centre on International Cooperation at New York University. He writes on strategic affairs every fortnight.
Saturday, July 23, 2011
Here's the link to an article of mine on the US-India Strategic Dialogue, looking at a space angle, published in today's Pioneer.
Substantive issues were evidently avoided at the Clinton-Krishna talks, otherwise what could explain the lack of interest on both sides to take forward the old idea of cooperation in space? Wasn't it less controversial than the nuclear deal?
The US-India Joint Space Working Group (JWG) on civil space cooperation concluded their talks in Bangalore last week. In terms of concrete steps, the two sides have agreed to work together for sharing information on monsoon forecasting by exchanging and using satellite-based scientific data. This, along with other areas highlighted during the JWG meeting, has been included in the Joint Statement at the end of the second US-India Strategic Dialogue.
But, in most other respects, the US-India Strategic Dialogue, appears to have produced no big ideas for carrying forward the relationship. The joint statement issued at the end of the dialogue focuses on, among other things, the new US-India Dialogue on Central Asia, acknowledging particularly the importance of it in the context of better trade and transit linkages that might contribute to the long-term well-being of Afghanistan; strengthening of defence ties through transfer of technology, joint research, development and production of defence items; US' support for India's membership into the four technology export control regimes - Nuclear Suppliers Group, Missile Technology Control Regime, Australia Group and the Wassennaar Arrangement; and the bilateral initiatives on clean energy options including solar energy, energy-efficient buildings and advanced bio-fuels.
The Joint Statement also included a paragraph on space, with the two sides agreeing to cooperate on a number of areas such as sharing satellite data on oceans and global weather patterns, joint experiments, earth observation, space exploration and so on.
The statement has been along expected lines. Despite its huge potential and almost no controversy, Indo-US space cooperation has not moved to concrete actionable agenda yet. The need of the hour was to introduce a bilateral 21st century commercial space initiative or a Space Knowledge Initiative, thereby making space an attractive proposition for entrepreneurs. Such an initiative would have made space a commercially and strategically sustainable area in India-US relations. The two sides should have had a clear goal along with bilateral funding. Subsequently, it could have been made into a good case for public-private partnership. The Agricultural Knowledge Initiative is often cited as a good example of public-private partnership.
India and the US need to be more innovative and visionary and identify cutting edge areas to cooperate. There are plenty of candidates: areas like space access, in-space maneuver, space logistics, space infrastructure, etc. This would have several spin-off effects in terms of creating a human resource pool well-versed in dealing with future challenges. The spin-off benefits in terms of job creation would have become an attractive proposition for the two countries given the domestic pressure.
India and the US should have ideally produced a joint statement that would have laid out a long-term plan with near and mid-term milestones -- such as monitoring non-traditional security threats including human security issues by studying the environment and oceans, with a roadmap for constructing a space-based sensors constellation. They could have considered a technology demonstration programme for making space-based solar power a technologically viable option or endorsed the goals of the Kalam-NSS initiative and IAA study, calling for the establishment of a working group toward an on-orbit demo of an international space-solar power demonstrator satellite within 10 years, with both Delhi and Washington pledging $1bn over the next 10 years towards. Lastly, the two sides could have established a US-India Space Knowledge / Commercial Initiative. This would have required the two governments making an investment of about $40-50mn over a five-year period while identifying specific projects for this time span.
Lastly, Indo-US relations have been drifting along for sometime now and it is time that the two sides identified another big idea to steer the relationship and take it to the next level. Space cooperation clearly has the potential to play this role. But clearly, its potential has yet to be recognized on either side.
Thursday, July 21, 2011
Here's an analysis of mine, published by ORF, on the recent US-India Strategic Dialogue, more from a space point of view.
India and the US need to be more innovative and visionary, and identify cutting edge areas to cooperate. There are plenty of candidates: areas like space access, in-space maneuver, space logistics, space infrastructure, in addition to developing new markets such as space tourism, on-orbit construction and manufacture, terrestrial resource mapping, space resource and energy utilization, space traffic management and active debris mitigation, to name a few.
The US-India Joint Space Working Group (JWG) on civil space cooperation concluded their talks in Bangalore last week. In terms of concrete steps, the two sides have agreed to work together for sharing information on tropical weather, monsoon forecasting by exchanging and using satellite-based scientific data about the Earth, weather, geophysical features. These are by no means the most exciting areas of cooperation on space. This as well as other areas highlighted during the JWG meeting have been included in the Joint Statement at the end of the second US-India Strategic Dialogue which ended on Tuesday evening.
The Strategic Dialogue appears to have produced no big ideas for carrying forward the relationship. The Joint Statement focuses on, among other things, the new US-India Dialogue on Central Asia, acknowledging particularly the importance of it in the context of better trade and transit linkages that might contribute to the long-term well-being of Afghanistan; strengthening of defence ties through transfer of technology, joint research, development and production of defence items; US' support for India's membership into the four technology export control regimes - Nuclear Suppliers Group, Missile Technology Control Regime, Australia Group and the Wassennaar Arrangement; and the bilateral initiatives on clean energy options including solar energy, energy-efficient buildings and advanced bio-fuels.
The statement has been along expected lines. Despite huge potentiality and almost no controversy -- unlike in the nuclear area -- Indo-US space cooperation has not moved to concrete actionable agenda yet. The statement clearly lacks much vision. It included a paragraph on space, with the two sides agreeing to cooperate on a number of areas such as sharing satellite data on oceans and global weather patterns, joint experiments, earth observation, space exploration and so on.
The need of the hour was to introduce a US-India 21st Century Commercial Space Initiative or a Space Knowledge Initiative, along the lines of the US-India Agricultural Knowledge Initiative and the US-India Clean Energy Initiative, making space an attractive proposition for entrepreneurs besides the strategic entities on either sides. Such an initiative would have made space a commercially and strategically sustainable area in India-US relations. The two sides should have had a clear goal along with bilateral funding. Subsequently, it could have been made into a good case for public-private partnership. The Agricultural Knowledge Initiative is often cited as a good example of public-private partnership.
India and the US need to be more innovative and visionary, and identify cutting edge areas to cooperate. There are plenty of candidates: areas like space access, in-space maneuver, space logistics, space infrastructure, in addition to developing new markets such as space tourism, on-orbit construction and manufacture, terrestrial resource mapping, space resource and energy utilization, space traffic management and active debris mitigation, to name a few. The two sides ought to make this into an economically sustainable option, and create a strategic industry around space to make it sustainable in the long-term. This would have several spin-off effects in terms of creating a pool of human and scientific resources, well-versed in dealing with future challenges. The spin-off benefits in terms of job creation would have become an attractive proposition for the two countries, given the domestic pressure.
India and the US should have ideally produced a joint statement that would have laid out a long-term plan with near and mid-term milestones -- such as monitoring non-traditional security threats, including human security issues by studying the environment and oceans, with a roadmap for constructing a space-based sensors constellation. They could have considered a technology demonstration programme for making space-based solar power a technologically viable option or endorsed the goals of the Kalam-NSS initiative and IAA study, calling for the establishment of a working group toward an on-orbit demo of an international space-solar power demonstrator satellite within 10 years, with both Delhi and Washington pledging $1bn over the next 10 years towards such a programme. Lastly, the two sides could have established a US-India Space Knowledge/Commercial Initiative. This would have required the two governments making an investment of about $40-50mn for a five-year period, while identifying specific projects for this time span.
Lastly, Indo-US relations have been drifting along for sometime now and it is time that the two sides identified another big idea to steer the relationship and take it to the next level. Space cooperation clearly has the potential to play this role. But clearly, its potential is yet to be recognized by either side.
Monday, July 18, 2011
Here's an article by Michael Listner on space Code of Conduct issues published in Defense Policy. Dr. Listner cites me in the context of Asian debate on the Code.
TCBMs: A New Definition and New Role for Outer Space Security
July 7, 2011 by Michael Listner
Frank A. Rose, Deputy Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Arms Control, Verification and Compliance for the United States Department of State, recently participated as a panelist in “Defining Space Security for the 21st Century.” The panel, which convened on June 13, 2011, was part of the Space Security Through the Transatlantic Partnership Conference sponsored by the European Space Policy Institute and Prague Security Studies Institute, held June 12-14.
In his remarks, Mr. Rose discussed the diplomatic activities being pursued by the United States to enhance stability in outer space and as result its security. Specifically, Mr. Rose limited his remarks to the policy tools that the United States is considering, if not already using, to advance and to promote security and stability in outer space with an emphasis on the use of transparency and confidence-building measures (TCBMs). Mr. Rose noted the United States’ use of TCBMs through USSTRATCOM’s Joint Space Operations Center (JSpOC) and its provision of notifications to the Russian Federation and the Peoples’ Republic of China regarding close approaches between satellites.
Mr. Rose also remarked that the United States is considering signing on to the European Code of Conduct for Outer Space Activities (CoC) as part of its policy to strengthen stability and security in outer space. Mr. Rose further commented that the United States will be participating in the Group of Government Experts on Outer Space TCBMs in 2012. The Group of Government Experts, which was established by Resolutions 65/68 during the 65th session of the United Nations General Assembly, is anticipated by the United States to serve as a positive mechanism to examine voluntary and pragmatic TCBMs in space to remedy concrete problems presented in space stability and security. Ironically, or perhaps by design, Mr. Rose’s remarks concerning the use of TCBMs come one week after Huang Huikang, director of the Department of Treaty and Law in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for the Peoples’ Republic of China addressed the 54th session of United Nations Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (COPUOS) on June 5th, where he spoke about China’s space policy. In his address, he noted the importance of space law as an important instrument for safeguarding the peaceful use of outer space.
While not mentioning the PRC’s defense policy or the PPWT in particular, Huang also noted that space law is important for the prevention of the weaponization of space, thus intimating that space stability and security can be achieved only through an expansion of the current legal regime for outer space. The approach of the United States policy and that of the PRC towards space stability are diametrically opposite and should provide an interesting dichotomy when the Group of Government Experts meets next year to consider the role of TCBMs should play in space activities.
Transparency and Confidence-Building Measures
Transparency and confidence-building measures (TCBMs) are part of the legal and institutional framework supporting military threat reductions and confidence-building among nations. They have been recognized by the United Nations as mechanisms that offer transparency, assurances and mutual understanding amongst states and they are intended to reduce misunderstandings and tensions. They also promote a favorable climate for effective and mutually acceptable paths to arms reductions and non-proliferation. The General Assembly at its 73rd plenary meeting on December 7, 1988 endorsed the guidelines for TCBMs decided upon by the Commission on Disarmament on December 12, 1984.
TCBMs have been used extensively for the purpose of arms control and specifically in the arena of nuclear weapons. However, when applied to space activities TCBMs can address other space activities outside of those performed for by the military or for those performed for national security reasons. While TCBMs promote transparency and assurance between states, they do not have the legal force of treaties and states entering into them are bound only by a code of honor to abide by the terms of the instrument. By their nature TCBMs are considered a “top-down” approach to addressing issues. They are not intended to supplant disarmament accords but rather to be a stepping stone to legally enforceable instruments.
Redefining TCBMs for outer space activities
TCBMs as envisioned by the United States provide the Obama Administration with a diplomatic and policy tool that it can utilize to unilaterally project its foreign policy agenda without interference from Congress and in particular the Senate. With the loss of the majority in the House of Representatives and a greatly diminished majority in the Senate, the Obama Administration is faced with a less than favorable political environment to propose a treaty such as the PPWT. TCBMs give the Administration an alternative to side-step political impediments to pursue its foreign policy objectives in place of an actual treaty in regards to outer space stability and security.The position set forth by the United States regarding the use of TCBMs does not coincide with the traditional view and use of TCBMs. Per the National Space Policy, the United States is seeking to enter into TCBMs to define space activity and conduct as an alternative to entering into legally binding treaties.
This approach to TCBMs was articulated by Paula Desutter when discussing the implications of the United States signing onto the CoC. Ms. Desutter remarked that the CoC was preferable to the draft Treaty on the Prevention of the Placement of Weapons in Outer Space, the Threat or Use of Force against Outer Space Objects (PPWT) proposed by the Russian Federation and the Peoples’ Republic of China. She noted that the CoC could provide an alternative approach and vehicle to ensuring space security and stability that could undermine or ultimately lead to the demise of the PPWT. If this is the tack that the United States intends to take at next year’s meeting of the Group of Government Experts, then it will meet opposition from several constituencies.
The PRC and the Russian Federation will certainly oppose as they have in the past any form of TCBMs that are not linked to some sort of arms control agreement such as the proposed PPWT. The Russian Federation in particular has noted that TCBMs have been used in the past to address issues relating to space activities, and that it has used unilateral TCBMs itself in regards to notifications of launches and the pledge not to be the first to deploy space weapons. The Russian Federation has stated it will likely continue to support the use of TCBMs to lay the ground work for adoption of the PPWT and that the adoption of the PPWT would be the most important confidence-building measure in outer space.
If reaction by Asia-Pacific nations to the proposed CoC is any indicator, the United States could also find opposition from other space-faring nations in that region. Open-source material criticizing the CoC suggests that India might object to the United States’ approach to space security and stability. Dr. Rajeswari Pillai Rajagopalan’s, a Senior Fellow in Security Studies at the Observer Research Foundation remarked on whether India should endorse the CoC. Dr. Rajagopalan notes in her critique of the CoC that the European Council did not consult Asian nations while drafting the instrument, and that while the Coc is voluntary, its mandate for states to establish national policies and procedures to mitigate the potential for accidents in space could be seen as intrusive. She further critiqued that the voluntary nature of the CoC would preclude any penalty on states violating the norms within. Similarly, some of the concerns voiced by Dr. Rajagopalan could be expressed by India and other nations within the Asia-Pacific region concerning the use of TCBMs with the most prominent being their lack of enforceability and verification.
The United States will also find opposition from the non-space faring nations. The United States is portrayed as the neighborhood bully when it comes to matters of international security, especially in the realm of outer space security, and the realities of soft politics will ensure that will not change anytime soon. Attempts to address the issue of space security and stability via TCBMs as proposed by the United States will be met with suspicion by non-space faring nations and the delegation from the PRC and Russian Federation will likely stoke that dissension.
The use of TCBMs in place of treaties may not be the ideal diplomatic solution to deal with the issue of space security and stability. However, until such time that a reliably verifiable and workable treaty is introduced that can pass Congressional muster, the use of TCBMs are a prudent course for the United States to take to address the issue of stability and security in outer space while simultaneously preserving its national security interests in that realm. Only time will tell whether this approach will ultimately be embraced or rejected by space faring and non-space faring nations alike.
Defining Space Security for the 21st Century, Bureau of Arms Control, Verification and Compliance Remarks, United States Department of State, June 13, 2001.Stephen Clark, “Nearly 400 satellite crash notices sent to Russia, China”, Space Flight Now, June 15, 2011.Jeff Foust, “Debating a code of conduct for space”, The Space Review, March 7, 2011.
Liu Gang, “Building harmonious outer space to achieve inclusive development: Chinese diplomat”, Xinhua, June 5, 2011.
Andrey Makarov, Transparency and Confidence-Building Measures: Their Place and Role in Space Security, Security in Space: The Next Generation-Conference Report, 31, March-1 April 2008, United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research (UNIDIR), 2008.
U.N. General Assembly, 43rd Session, 1988, Guidelines for confidence-building measures (A/43/78H).
George C. Marshall Institute, “Codes of Conduct in Space: Considering the Impact of the EU Code of Conduct on U.S. Security in Space”, February 4, 2011.
The Value of Transparency and Confidence-Building Measures – Next Steps, Statement by V.L.Vasiliev, Deputy Permanent Representative of the Russian Federation, at the UNIDIR Conference on Space Security 2010, Geneva, 29 March 2010.
Dr. Rajeswari Pillai Rajagopalan, “Establishing Rules of the Road in Space: Issues and Challenges”, Observer Research Foundation, May 6, 2011.
Here's an article of mine published by ORF on US-India space cooperation.
With the nuclear deal over, New Delhi and Washington need another big idea to power the relationship over the next several years. Space cooperation has the potential for being that next big idea.
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will be arriving in Delhi on Monday (July 18) for the second U.S.-India Strategic Dialogue. This strategic dialogue is crucial because there is an increasing concern that the U.S.-India partnership is beginning to lose its way. In Washington, there is significant disappointment on a number of issues including India’s nuclear liabilities bill, which for all practical purposes prevents the US nuclear industry from participating in India’s civilian nuclear sector; and the Indian decision to reject two American competitors from the Indian Air Force’s lucrative Medium Multi Role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA) deal. In Delhi, on the other hand, there is unhappiness at what is seen as American pressure for greater defence cooperation. These issues suggest that all is not well with US-India relations.
With the nuclear deal over, New Delhi and Washington need another big idea to power the relationship over the next several years. Without such a political initiative at the highest levels, U.S.-India relations threaten once again to wallow in bureaucratic inertia. Space cooperation has the potential for being that next big idea.
Nearly two years back, Karl F. Inderfurth, former U.S. Assistant Secretary of Statefor South Asia Affairs, and C. Raja Mohan, prominent Indian foreign policy analyst, proposed in the pages of the Financial Times, London that space cooperation be kept at the heart of U.S.-India relations.
But though space cooperation has been an important item in the agenda between the two countries with almost all important bilateral documents proposing such cooperation, there has been little tangible movement on the issue. With the removal of most U.S. high-technology sanctions on Indian agencies, particularly on the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), there are few obstacles to serious cooperation in this area.
Nevertheless, bland sentiments about cooperation are unlikely to bear fruit without tangible proposals. To begin with, the two governments should consider establishing a US-India 21st Century Commercial Space Initiative or a Space Knowledge Initiative, along the lines of the US-India Agricultural Knowledge Initiative and the US-India Clean Energy Initiative.
Space cooperation between the two countries has even greater potential. Space cooperation is likely to be much more visible than either energy or agriculture cooperation. And unlike the US-India nuclear deal, space cooperation is likely to garner domestic support in both countries and is likely to be less controversial internationally.
India’s Minister of Commerce and Industry, Anand Sharma, recently highlighted the successful US-India partnership in the area of clean energy. The initiative was also a successful model of public-private sector partnership, with the two governments investing $25 million each and the private sector investing $50 million.
There are a number of areas of space cooperation that Washington and Delhi can explore. While space exploration purely for the sake of science might be important, it is likely to be more sustainable when linked to building a strategic industry. US and India should focus building the underlying knowledge and skill base which can address many areas: space access, in-space maneuver, space logistics, space infrastructure, on-orbit servicing, developing new markets such as space tourism, on-orbit construction and manufacture, terrestrial resource mapping, space resource and energy utilization, space traffic management and active debris mitigation, among others.
India-U.S. space cooperation also has a potential for being much more broad-based than other areas such as nuclear or defense cooperation. Space cooperation can generate stakeholders across a wide-spectrum, from the national space agencies on both sides (NASA and ISRO), education and science and technology departments to universities as well as private commercial enterprises in both countries. In fact, space cooperation has the potential to go far beyond entities like ISRO and catalyse new strategic industries in space.
The two countries can elevate three strategic objectives through the space cooperation initiative: first, it provides an exciting investment area of space in the Indo-U.S. strategic partnership for Indian and American leaders to work on, which addresses STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics), jobs and high-tech cooperation in space. Second, it can catapult space-industrialisation and commercial space from the edge of the Indian and American national space paradigm to its forefront. Third, garner further resources for our own STEM in developing a future strategic industry.
Such an initiative could generate active participation and cooperation from public and private entities such as ANTRIX Corporation (India’s commercial wing of ISRO), the Chamber of Indian Industries (CII), Indo-U.S. S&T Fund, FICCI, USIBC, educational institutions such as IIT, IIM, IISc and on the U.S. side, FAA/SAT universities, USRA, NIRA, NASA/OCT Commercial, Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Space Enterprise Institute among others.
U.S.-India partnership has never been short of promise, but realising the potential needs grand vision. Much of the progress over the last decade has been the result of precisely such a vision in the form of the nuclear deal. The need now is for another grand vision that would ensure that the progress made so far is not jeopardised.
I thank Lt. Col. Peter Garretson of the US Air Force for collaborating and formulating many of the ideas in this analysis.
Saturday, June 11, 2011
I should have got this post earlier ... better late than never. The US released its National Military Strategy (NMS) on February 08, 2011. The document, released by the Joint Chiefs of Staff, an update in seven years, has a lot of focus on Asia. This is no surprise given that this century is acknowledged as the Asian century. Asia is also at the centre for a variety of reasons -- economic growth, terrorism, proliferation of dangerous technologies or resource crunch or climate change woes.
Looking at Asia, detailed assessments and strategies are provided particularly for the war against terror in Afghanistan, the ongoing war in Iraq and China.
Asia has clearly overtaken Europe as the US priority area. The NMS states, "The Nation’s strategic priorities and interests will increasingly emanate from the Asia-Pacific region. The region's share of global wealth is growing, enabling increased military capabilities. This is causing the region’s security architecture to change rapidly, creating new challenges and opportunities for our national security and leadership. Though still underpinned by the US bilateral alliance system, Asia's security architecture is becoming a more complex mix of formal and informal multilateral relationships and expanded bilateral security ties among states."
The challenges faced in the domain of global commons -- air, sea, cyberspace -- is another area that has been paid sufficient attention in the NMS. It states, "Assured access to and freedom of maneuver within the global commons – shared areas of sea, air, and space – and globally connected domains such as cyberspace are being increasingly challenged by both state and non-state actors. States are developing anti-access and area-denial capabilities and strategies to constrain US and international freedom of action. These states are rapidly acquiring technologies, such as missiles and autonomous and remotely-piloted platforms that challenge our ability to project power from the global commons and increase our operational risk. Meanwhile, enabling and war-fighting domains of space and cyberspace are simultaneously more critical for our operations, yet more vulnerable to malicious actions. The space environment is becoming more congested, contested, and competitive. Some states are conducting or condoning cyber intrusions that foreshadow the growing threat in this globally connected domain." At the other end of it, "Non-state actors such as criminal organizations, traffickers, and terrorist groups find a nexus of interests in exploiting the commons."
As for the war against terror in Afghanistan, the NMS states, "The Nation’s strategic objective in this campaign is to disrupt, dismantle, and defeat al Qaida and its affiliates in Afghanistan and Pakistan and prevent their return to either country. Success requires the Joint Force to closely work with NATO, our coalition partners, Afghanistan, and Pakistan. We will continue to erode Taliban influence, work with the Afghan government to facilitate reintegration and reconciliation of former insurgents, continue to strengthen the capacity of Afghan security forces, and enable Pakistan to ultimately defeat al Qaida and its extremist allies." The document also notes that "The threat of violent extremism is not limited to South Central Asia. Groups such as Al Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, Al Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb, al-Shabaab, Lashkar-e-Tayyiba, and others emanate from Somalia, Yemen, and elsewhere around the globe. Terrorists’ abilities to remotely plan and coordinate attacks is growing, sometimes facilitated by global illicit trafficking routes, extending their operational reach while rendering targeting of their sanctuaries more difficult."
The NMS also notes while military strategy can be decisive, there has to be long-term viable strategies wherein "Military power complements economic development, governance, and rule of law – the true bedrocks of counterterrorism efforts. In the long run, violent ideologies are ultimately discredited and defeated when a secure population chooses to reject extremism and violence in favor of more peaceful pursuits."
On China, the NMS states the US objectives thus: "Our Nation seeks a positive, cooperative, and comprehensive relationship with China that welcomes it to take on a responsible leadership role. To support this, the Joint Force seeks a deeper military-to-military relationship with China to expand areas of mutual interest and benefit, improve understanding, reduce misperception, and prevent miscalculation. We will promote common interests through China’s cooperation in countering piracy and proliferation of WMD, and using its influence with North Korea to preserve stability on the Korean peninsula." Having said that, there are issues of concern such as the military modernisation and some of the evolving strategies which are not conducive for a stable Asia. The NMS details to say, "We will continue to monitor carefully China’s military developments and the implications those developments have on the military balance in the Taiwan Strait. We remain concerned about the extent and strategic intent of China’s military modernization, and its assertiveness in space, cyberspace, in the Yellow Sea, East China Sea, and South China Sea. To safeguard U.S. and partner nation interests, we will be prepared to demonstrate the will and commit the resources needed to oppose any nation’s actions that jeopardize access to and use of the global commons and cyberspace, or that threaten the security of our allies."
Thursday, June 9, 2011
Here's the link to the ORF report on the recent Nuclear Dialogue in Beijing, where I had a paper on Missile Defence & Strategic Stability.
Noting that one of the emerging issues in Asian security is missile defence and its impact on nuclear deterrence and strategic stability, Dr. Rajeswari Pillai Rajagopalan has suggested that States should move away from the trend of seeking technological solutions to geopolitical issues in order to strengthen regional stability.
Anyone interested in the full paper, I will be happy to mail you separately. For the full report, click here.
"Technologies and weapon systems can inadvertently contribute to accidents and misperceptions and thereby lead to unintended crises," Dr. Rajagopalan said in a paper
titled "Missile Defence and Strategic Stability" presented at an international conference on ’China and India Nuclear Doctrine and Dynamics’, organised by the Carnegie-Tsinghua Center for Global Policy in Beijing on June 2 & 3.
Dr. Rajagopalan, a Senior Fellow at Observer Research Foundation, also suggested establishing certain ground rules in the area of missile defence that will help in reining the regional BMD programmes.
Dr. Rajagopalan said missile defence systems are not very effective. "There are serious limitations to how effectively BMD can protect its cities. For instance, in the case of India, BMD provide limited protection - to a few target locations. Protection against multiple missile attacks is something that India is still grappling with."
She said while "India’s BMD programme has been by and large an indigenous effort, there has been some foreign collaboration. More importantly, a potential collaboration between India and the US /Israel can fuel suspicion in the region contributing to the insecurity and instability dynamics in the region. China and Pakistan may not take kindly to such developments.
"China could potentially strengthen their nuclear, ICBM programmes, both in quantitative and qualitative terms, adding to the security-insecurity dilemma in the region. A strengthened China-Pakistan strengthened partnership could be a direct fall-out of this," Dr. Rajagopalan said in the paper, noting that analysts have cautioned that an Indian missile defence system would lead to China and Pakistan augmenting "their missile strike capabilities to maintain the strategic deterrence."
She said that in fact, an ineffective system or a system that is not fully developed will worsen and increases India’s vulnerabilities than strengthen its security.
Dr. Rajagopalan cautioned that a potential arms race in Asia is well within the realm of possibilities. "An Indian reaction to the Chinese test will touch off a response in Pakistan and a potential collaboration between China and Pakistan on nuclear, missile, and space matters is something that is likely to intensify the regional competition significantly. One has to look into the history to understand the China-Pakistan nuclear and missile cooperation. Outer space is the new domain for cooperation. China has agreed to strengthen their work on Pakistan’s satellite, which is currently being built in China, to be launched into orbit on August 14, 2011."
This conference was the second meeting wherein the Chinese were engaged in a bilateral with India on the nuclear subject. The first dialogue was organised by S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore, earlier this year.