Updated: Aug 26, 2022
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Prof. S Chandrashekar, Space, War & Security – A Strategy for India (National Institute of Advances Studies 2015), pp. iv + 110. ISBN: 9789383566198
The author of this book took the enormous challenge to examine India’s space-related capabilities, cross-examining with the capabilities of other major space powers and rivalries like the United States of America (USA) and the Peoples Republic of China (PRC). As per the author, space plays a role in determining which nation-state will have the edge in pivoting its global interest over other nations. In this context, PRC and US have an advantage and will influence other countries. Under this preview, the author made a massive effort to establish the book’s theme using empirical data. The book is divided into eight chapters, each dedicated to different technological aspects related to space.
The first chapter sets the background regarding the race for space dominance. At the initial of this unit, the author exhibited two instances to showcase the loopholes in the Indian space program. The first incident occurred in January 2007, when PRC trialed its Anti-Satellite (ASAT) weapon, which created a massive cloud of space debris as the missile destroyed a decommissioned satellite. The concerned satellite was placed at 800km Sun Synchronous Orbit (SSO), and India had multiple remote sensing satellites in the same orbit but came to know about the test after a week or ten days because of input from the US (p. 6). The second incident took place around 2010. In 2010, Beijing placed satellites to gain Electronic Intelligence (ELINT) capabilities, but India failed to comprehend China’s motivation for a long time.
Then the book divides the timeline of our space race into three categories. First is the time between 1960 to 1985. In this, countries use the space for “peaceful” activities (p. 11). The second phase is from 1985 to 1990. In this timeline, the US led the foundation of the aggressive race for space dominance. This was caused by President Regan’s Strategic Defence Initiative (SDI), also known as the Star Wars Programme (p.12). The final leg of the timeline is the duration from 1990 to the present. The major event which established the tone for the upcoming time was the use of space by the US to navigate its forces during the first Gulf war (p. 14). As per the author, even though the US dominates the space, China is not far behind, as Beijing has overtaken Moscow to become the second most prominent player.
The second and third unit is dedicated to highlighting gaps in India’s space program. India’s TT&C stations are spread over within the national boundaries and outside but are inadequate to track space debris and inactive satellite (p. 23). As part of the suggestion, the author suggested India must have a long-range radar network to compensate for the previously mentioned gap. Apart from this, monitoring of the space environment must be inculcated within National Security to gain a deeper understanding of the space environment since it would help emerging power like India (p. 24).
In the third unit first, it is highlighted that between 1992 to 2015, the average number of Geostationary Orbit (GSO) satellites launched by India stands around 1 per year. Then the weight of the WSG series of US Defence satellite stands about 6000 kg, and the commercial communication satellite Viasat weighs 6700kg. In contrast, the Indian communication satellite, launched by a foreign launcher, falls in the intermediate category (p. 31). The author forecasted that to meet the growing need for domestic and military, India should have a minimum capacity of two communication satellites and two launches per year (p. 36). Then on multiple instances and units, the book represents facts and figures to comparatively analyze the space-related capacity of India, the PRC, and the US.
The author has sequentially geared to enlighten the reader about how significant powers are moving forward to weaponize space. China is a new and comprehensive player using Anti-access and Area Denial Strategies to challenge the US presence in the Asia Pacific region. PCR is also pushing the conventional war toward nuclear war; in this process, it commissions missiles with both conventional and nuclear warheads (p. 88). To counter this, Washington responded with a comprehensive strategy that included space. This grand architecture includes flexible, prompt global strike, BMD, enhanced C4ISR capabilities, nuclear weapons, conventional weapons, space assets, and even the Pivot to Asia is also included in that. These types of frictions have modified the state rivalries, and thereby, space assets will be under threat even in conventional wars. For this reason, BMD and ASAT capabilities will be essential assets. As a part of the recommendation, the author suggests India must expand its BMD and ASAT capabilities and the dynamic capabilities of a robust SSA & C4ISR system.
The most significant part of the book is that the predictions and suggestions made in this book are still relevant and have not lost their traction. More fascinating for a reader to see that India has adopted many of the author’s recommendations. For instance, ISRO in 2020 established Space Situational Awareness Control Centre in Bengaluru to track inactive satellites and space debris. It would be interesting to see by when India will be able to install all the recommendations.
(Mr. Subhadip Mondal is a research officer at C3S. The views expressed in this book review are those of the author and do not reflect the views of C3S.)