India Looking To Develop Anti-Satellite Missile?
Excerpt from Indian daily Pioneer editorial:
The Government’s decision to set up an Integrated Space Cell is a long over-due step in the right direction. India has been consistent in insisting on the use of space only for peaceful purposes. It has remained committed to its policy of non-weaponisation of space. Yet it cannot remain indifferent to the offensive counter-space systems that have emerged in close proximity to our country, namely in China. Space-based offensive and defensive capabilities have now become important, with many countries, particularly China, developing new capacities as far as such weapons are concerned.
Establishment of an Integrated Space Cell is a precursor for the creation of the National Aerospace Command which would track objects in Earth’s orbit that might pose threat to Indian satellites and also keep an eye on the non-scientific and non-civilian activities carried out in the space.
The decision to form such a body came after China’s anti-satellite test in January, 2007. Although UN Resolutions prohibit use of outer space for military activities but the Chinese officials claimed that they didn’t violate any international rules but the move certainly rung alarm bells in India thus prompting efforts for an ‘equalizing measure’.
Although India is committed to peaceful use of outer space but acknowledging the ‘dangers’ posed by China India, in addition to setting up space monitoring agency, is exploring options of developing anti-satellite missile as a ‘strategic deterrence’. In this effect the Chairman of Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) talked about a possible collaboration with Department of Defense Research & Development (DRDO).
While working around international pressures and technological constraints India has been increasing the range of its ballistic missiles, it has also made vital breakthroughs in state-of-the-art rocket technology – Scramjet. Although the scramjet engines are currently undergoing tests some, like Clayton K S Chun of US Army War College, believe that India already possesses technological platforms which could be used for development of anti-satellite missiles. Chun writes in his book, Shooting Down a Star: Program 437, the US Nuclear ASAT System and Present Day Copycat Killers:
India’s first indigenously developed missile, the Prithvi, has provided the basic technology for further ballistic missile development. As a result of these efforts, the Indian government has several on-going ballistic missile systems in development that could launch an ASAT device.
India would like to demonstrate its anti-satellite weaponry for the purpose of deterrence against potential Chinese threat against its assets in space but it would be interesting to see if the international pressure would allow India to do so. India runs the risk of imposition of trade sanctions over technological goods and knowledge in addition to global condemnation, although some Western powers would like the idea of India countering China’s military might as many see India, world’s largest democracy, as an ally.
India has taken the right step by establishing a Space Cell to monitor its assets now the DRDO and ISRO need to collaborate for design and testing to a dedicated anti-satellite weapon even if such a device isn’t tested it could still work as a strong deterrent.