With the space sector being divided into astro-political blocs, India can't afford to stay non-aligned. A recent treaty between China and Russia makes it plain for India that leaving space exploration to a few science aficionados can be dangerous. India needs a national space exploration strategy with tangible economic and meta-strategic goals in sight.
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As the density of satellites increases in Earth's orbit, extreme space weather events like solar storms and radiation whiplashes threaten satellite constellations. A ‘whole-of-government’ approach is needed to address the challenges of space weather on India’s converging space and digital economies.
With an increasing human and robotic footprint in the solar system, there is a need to develop robust regulatory mechanisms to prevent the “forward” and “backward” biochemical contamination of these unexplored celestial bodies.
As more countries pursue missions to Mars, planetary explorations are evolving from being science-driven scientific pursuits to an economics-driven one. For India, commercializing planetary exploration must be a national priority. This demands more attention and contributions from the private sector - especially startups and innovative companies - to ensure a vibrant space program.
The maturing private space sector in the U.S. has learned to raise money from the market in the form of sectoral equity-traded funds. Such financing mechanisms will keep the U.S. ahead in the global space economy, which is slated to grow manifold from $430 billion now to $4 trillion by 2040. India's fledgling private space ecosystem, financiers, and stock exchanges can learn from the U.S. and do the same for India's newly reformed private space sector.
India needs a policy mix that nurtures the Space 2.0 industry, secures it from hostile takeovers and predatory investments from overseas investors, and does not suffocate it under excessive protectionism.
Bharti Global’s stake in OneWeb has given India lateral entry into this lucrative and newly-competitive global satellite-based internet services market. India and the U.K., the two stakeholders in this company, can build and sustain this collaboration through a well-thought-out bilateral space diplomacy agenda.
India has institutionalized a robust civilian-space agreement with the U.S. through the Joint Working Group on Civil Space Cooperation in 2005 and added a military dimension to it in 2020 when it signed the U.S.-India BECA Agreement. The two countries should now partner to secure each other’s interest in the rapidly-maturing space economy sector.
The Space20 is the newest sub-forum of the G20 initiated by Saudi Arabia, with the support of the United Nations Office of Outer Space Affairs. India, on its way to the G20 presidency in 2022, should set a comprehensive Space20 agenda for the democratization of outer space, whereby it can share its space growth story with the developing world and achieve its goal to become a global knowledge epicenter.
As the world enters the Second Space Age, an Indo-Emirati space partnership can be a lodestar for others. However, it is only the people-to-people connect and the diversity of the innovation linkages between the Emirati and Indian diaspora, that can truly make it a success for science and citizens, and help achieve their aspirations for the 21st century.