As you might have guessed, space continues to be in the news in a quiet way, and one of the more interesting stories I read this week was shared my Mr. K.B. in India, about India's new space program director, and its plans to create space laws. This is a story with some long term geopolitical implications, which are hinted at in the article:
Now there are two parts to this article where I think there are some profound geopolitical implications, if one views them in the wider context of geopolitics and economics today. Here's the first set of statements:
What is the big picture that you see for ISRO, say by 2025 and beyond?
We should firm up our newer geostationary launch vehicle technology activities. R&D is going on for the semi-cryogenic engine to lift much heavier payloads.
It would obviously be about improving communication capability, transponder availability. We plan to bring in a high-throughput Ka-band satellite. A suggestion is to work with international [partners]. The [four-tonne] GSAT-11 would be our parallel approach.
We would also use two GSLV MkIII flights, of December 2016 and 2017, to demonstrate next-generation satellite technologies.(Boldface emphasis added)
Then, a little further on, we read this:
How do you view the future societal role of Space?
Though there are other significant [land-based] efforts, linking remote places will be possible only through the Space segment. There is a big [Digital India] plan for enabling people down to the gram panchayat level in 250,000 villages with digital data of 20 mbps. About 20,000 villages are difficult to reach.
As the provider of the Space infrastructure, we would have a significant role in this plan, starting with a connectivity of 2 mbps. We are doing trials now in the North East. It could be for tele-medicine, tele-education, banking, village resource information or local phone connections.
So what is the geopolitical implication here? Well, first, there is the implication that areas of India are still not connected adequately to the internet, and obviously, Mr. Kumar sees space based connectivity as the solution. But in the first quotation, Mr. Kumar also is suggesting an expansion of India's "transponder availability" and working with "international partners". What this suggests is that India is tayloring aspects of its space program to a drastic improvement of its space-based communications capabilities, not only into remote areas of the country, but also in conjunction with its BRICSA bloc partners. The underlying, and in my opinion, hidden aspect of this story, in other words, is that India, a major partner not only in the BRICS development bank but, along with China and Russia, a major partner in China's Asia Infrastructure Investment Bank, will play a role in any parallel international financial clearing mechanism as may eventually emerge from the BRICS bloc.
Now, with that in mind, consider these highly suggestive remarks by Mr. Kumar at the very end of the article:
ISRO is now working on a Space law.
Enacting a full-fledged Space Law has become a requirement as more and more private enterprises enter this business. It will clarify many existing issues and resolve certain ambiguities.
A draft has been circulated [to experts] and we hope to submit it to the government by the end of the year.
What is the status of the arbitrations in the Antrix-Devas contract case? Was it a trigger for the law?
The arbitration cases are going on. It is a long drawn out process with a binding on time. They have to give a verdict.
Not quite a trigger. Space is being used more and more for non-civil activities. The law should ensure Space is not misused. Who will be liable if private launches happen and all kinds of objects are put in space? These activities will have to be spelt out while enabling commercial opportunities.
In other words, like the USA, India is pursuing the unilateral legislative process of creating space law to cover its space assets. Certainly this is a prudent step for its domestic investments, but it must also be viewed as a geopolitical step, asserting the right that India means to have a seat at the table when the time comes to create an international body of law to cover space assets and conflicts. New Delhi is serving notice to Washington that American law will not be the single voice in space matters. Expect that Russia, China, and Europe will follow suit, and do so quickly. India's space law also means something else, and I've said it before: with the commercialization of space will come the inevitable need to protect those assets, and that means the militarization and weaponization of space. This means that for India, just as for every other space power, there will be a hidden, secret aspect of their program, that they simply are not going to talk about.
See you on the flip side.