Col Ashwani Sharma (Retd)


The geopolitics of space is not new. Space has stayed in the purview of national competition ever since the launch of Sputnik 1 in 1957. Six decades later, from the control of GPS to support military decision-making to satellite-based communications or precise imagery to assist humanitarian organisations, governments are increasing their footprint and capabilities in outer space. More recently, space has emerged as a battlefield in global security. If anyone needed proof, conflicts in the last couple of years have provided adequate evidence of the impact that capabilities in space make on the outcome of operations in the battlefield. Most of the space applications being of dual use in nature can be used for military purposes. Militarisation of space is already happening; weaponising, however, is a matter where most nations are tight lipped and there are international treaties that prohibit the activity.

Should we prepare to weaponise?  Till now, most of the military experts and strategists saw space as only existing to support the war-fighter on the ground, land, and sea. At the other end of the spectrum, there are military leaders unaware of the fundamentals of outer space, and indulge in fantasy ideas such as space planes dropping special forces into combat zones around the world. We need a realistic appraisal. Orbital weapons can prove to be an effective deterrent against a rogue nation or a hostile neighbour. This deterrence can be a replacement for or complementary to the existing nuclear deterrent. A counter to space-based weapons can be thought of through ingenuity and resourcefulness. This debate will continue; however, there is no denying the fact that a country that possesses dominant capabilities in space through situational awareness and offensive means has a massive advantage over the adversary in a military conflict.

India, after a measured start in 1962 by raising INCOSPAR has come a long way in developing capabilities in space. The last few years in particular, have witnessed participation of the private sector and a spurt in space-related start-ups. Through the years, ISRO worked quietly but diligently and delivered efficiently without much ado. Now the enthusiasm and creative ability of the private sector immensely aided by a number of start-ups is accelerating India’s prowess in space. For the first time, strategic competition over space is as much based on the private as the public sector.  Companies in the US are leading and have become the torchbearers for the rest of the world. Russia, the EU, India, Japan, and China are all investing in advanced space programs.

This issue of the magazine is dedicated to space and all the effort that is going on in India to catch up quickly and remain ahead of the curve in space-related activities. May it provide wings to the imagination and resourcefulness of our readers and young entrepreneurs while the seasoned veterans plan for another leap of faith-into space.