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.