Indian, Chinese Rivalry Complicates U.S. Space Diplomacy

I found an interesting article that looks at the delicate balance that the United States must keep as it attempts to expand cooperation in space with both China and India, whose fierce rivalry for dominance in Asia is spilling over into the building of geo-positioning systems, ballistic missile defense, and satellite-killing spacecraft.

China’s determination to hold the option of denying the use of space-based capabilities to other states was illuminated in its successful test of an anti-satellite weapon in January 2007, eliminating an old Chinese weather satellite. Building upon this experience, Beijing conducted its first ballistic missile defense (BMD) test on 11 January 2010.

China is developing a geospatial positioning Compass Navigation Satellite System (CNSS), equivalent to the American GPS and Russian GLONASS systems. This will further improve military targeting and location abilities, while offering civilians a satellite positioning service that heralds Chinese technical acumen. Beijing also seeks to launch a manned space lab by 2020….

Indian BMD development is a rare area of advantage in comparison with Chinese efforts. V.K. Saraswat, the head of missile development at the Indian Defence Research and Development Organisation, recently commented that “This (BMD) is one area where we are senior to China.”

Influenced by the space-denial technology of China’s 2007 anti-satellite test, India is also developing its own anti-satellite abilities. As with India’s nuclear platform development, a perceived China threat is acting as a principal driver of the shape of Indian military developments.

During his trip to India this week, President Barack Obama announced plans to relax limits on cooperation between the United States and India’s space and defense ministries. NASA Administrator Charles Bolden visited China last month to begin preliminary discussions about cooperation on human spaceflight and other areas. U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates has also met with Chinese officials in an effort to reduce tensions and build better military ties between the two nations.

Read the full story.