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Ashutosh Sheshabalaya On Indian Issues
India Too Is Proud Of Its Civilian-led Space Programme
by Ashutosh Sheshabalaya

Published in October 20, 2003 issue of The Financial Times, London.
Sir, In 'More than pride at stake for China' (October 13) your correspondent drew interesting parallels between the recent Chinese manned mission and the military dimensions of US and Russian space programmes. This might have been a good occasion to include India's efforts in space, especially in terms of its very different priorities.

Unlike China, India's space programme has been civilian-led, and it is clearly the world's only one with an ambitious agenda for empowerment and economic development. For example, India's eight IRS satellites today form the world's largest (and one of its most advanced) remote-sensing constellations. They are used not only to find water resources and combat deforestation at home, but also to monitor pollution and fight forest fires in Europe and the US (where IRS data is distributed by Thornton, Colorado-based Space Imaging).

Elsewhere, the Indian-built INSAT-3A is today the sole satellite providing SAR (Search and Rescue) services from the Middle East to Australia, another 9 INSAT satellites provide telephone, TV and Internet connectivity at (incredibly low) rupee costs to remote rural regions, while METSAT is used across Asia for weather forecasting. While the new Ariane IV-class GSLV rocket puts India 15 years ahead of countries like Brazil and Israel in launch payload capability, one-tonne IRS satellites are already being lofted by the Indian PSLV rocket.

Meanwhile, India plans to launch an entirely new generation of satellites over the next two years. These include three world firsts - satellites dedicated exclusively to telemedicine, education and disaster management. In India too, there is more than pride at stake in its space programme, but a slightly different kind of pride.

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