India’s Space Programme – Projecting the Soft Power of the country

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Sriharikota: India moved towards its second tryst with the moon as ISRO's heavy lift rocket - the Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle-Mark III (GSLV-Mk III) - carrying the 3,850 kg Chandrayaan-2 spacecraft, blasted off from the Sriharikota spaceport in Andhra Pradesh on July 22, 2019. The 43.4 metre tall, 640 ton rocket, nicknamed 'Bahubali' for as the hero in the successful film lifts a heavy lingam, it carries the 3.8-tonne Chandrayaan-2, which will carry out India's second mission to its closest celestial neighbour. (Photo: IANS)

Strategic Eye – A column on current affairs – relating to India and/or Canada and  looking at ways to promote Indo-Canadian relations in many spheres.

by Ajey Lele &  Nivedita Das Kundu*

India successfully launched its second mission to Moon called Chandrayaan 2 on July 22, 2019. As per the plan the lander and rover system would land on the Moon’s surface by Sept 7, 2019. 

Chandrayaan 2 constitutes of the three unites namely the Orbiter, the Lander and the Rover. The Orbiter would be positioned at altitude of 100 km above the Moon’s surface and observe the lunar surface and take photographs. If India succeeds with the soft landing of their craft on the Moon’s surface, then it would become the fourth country in the world to achieve this success.

How Chandrayaan 2 made it to the moon. (IANS Infographics)

Today, India is using space as an instrument for its foreign policy. Till date (starting from 2008) India has launched 13 satellites for Canada.  Many countries of the world are looking at India for cost-effective option to launch their satellites.

During 2017, ISRO has launched a South Asia Satellite (GSAT-9), which is a geo-stationary communications and meteorology satellite to assist its neighbouring states. Also, there are various satellite projects which India has undertaken at the bilateral level with various countries including Russia, France and the US. In a sense, Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) is demonstrating the ability to shape the preferences of others. Slowly, ISRO has emerged as a mechanism of attraction for the others.

Chennai: India’s first moon lander Vikram successfully separated from its mother spacecraft Chandrayaan-2 on Monday at 1.15 a.m., said Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO). According to ISRO, the Vikram Lander is currently located in an orbit of 119 km x 127 km. The Chandrayaan-2 Orbiter continues to orbit the Moon in its existing orbit. (Photo: IANS)

All these efforts allowing India to strategically locate itself as a focal point of some of global space activities and exploit the “Soft Power” potential of its space expertise.  ISRO has brought many laurels to India owing to their accomplishments in the space domain. Particularly, during last decade or so ISRO has very smartly demonstrated its technological prowess.

During 2008, they successfully undertook their first mission and this was followed by the mission to Mars in 2013. While during 2017, ISRO launched a total of 104 satellites in a single mission and created a world record. ISRO’s various space projects are cost effective and cheapest by global standards and today ISRO also gets reconditioned for their frugal engineering.

K. Sivan, Director of ISRO. (File Photo: IANS)

Recently, it has been announced that Canada would be joining the US led project called Lunar Gateway that will see humans return to the moon and set the stage for further exploration to Mars. It is time that Canada also joins hands with other like-minded states like India for projects like the Moon exploration.

India is about to conclude its second mission to Moon. Canada can join hands with India as a partner for its third or fourth mission to Moon.

This could help both India and Canada to develop a strong strategic connect.

* Ajey Lele, Ph.D & Nivedita Das Kundu, Ph.D are international relations experts and strategic and foreign policy analysts.