Wednesday, May 29, 2024

India Joins US-Led Artemis Accords, Boosting Interplanetary Ambitions & Global Space Diplomacy

By Staff Correspondent

After years of anticipation, India has officially inked its participation in the US-led Artemis Accords, an intergovernmental agreement designed to foster partnerships for space exploration. The move is seen as a strategic pivot for India, designed to bolster its interplanetary ambitions and create a stronger Indian imprint in global space diplomacy.

The decision to join the Artemis Accords has sparked a wave of debates within India and abroad. However, the Indian government’s long negotiation period indicates a well-considered move, prioritising the nation’s strategic interests and long-term space goals rather than a hasty bid to join an exclusive club.

The signing of the Artemis Accords was met with significant excitement in the United States, evident from the public statements made by officials. This enthusiasm seemingly bodes well for India’s future involvement in the Artemis Program, which could include Indian astronauts visiting the International Space Station (ISS) and collaborations with the US on crewed moon missions, marking a return to the lunar surface after a hiatus of four decades. As India progresses in its advanced human spaceflight program, it is believed that its participation in international space diplomacy and commerce will have substantial benefits.

As the era of commercial space stations dawns, India plans to establish its own space station in the 2030s, opening the door for partnerships with commercial entities worldwide. Furthermore, the experiences and relationships fostered through Artemis stakeholders could benefit India’s subsequent human spaceflight missions.

Over the last two decades, India-US space diplomacy efforts have continued despite various challenges, including US sanctions on the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) under the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) in the 1990s. However, several agreements and joint ventures have strengthened bilateral space cooperation over time.

The ongoing collaboration between the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and ISRO on a cutting-edge synthetic aperture radar mission is a testament to this growing partnership. Observers ask whether India’s partnership with the US indicates a shift from cooperation with Russia or a refusal to engage with Sino-Russian lunar research initiatives? However, it is primarily understood that India remains open to collaboration that serves its interests and maintains that it will continue to work with any country or grouping accordingly.

The enhanced interest of US-based financiers in Indian space businesses, coupled with the strong connections established by the Indian diaspora in high-technology areas, makes the Artemis Accords a compelling opportunity for India. Questions have been raised about what this means for India’s indigenous space missions, like Gaganyaan, or the nation’s strategic autonomy? However, leading analysts agree that strategic autonomy should not mean isolation.

As India participates in Artemis-led missions, it will contribute its strengths and expertise, further solidifying its role as a significant player in the interplanetary space economy. The nation’s participation in the Cislunar and Earth-Mars industrial supply chains will be critical.

India is positioning itself as a new kind of superpower in the space arena, both realistic and driven by a determination to contribute positively to humanity. With the Artemis Accords, India does not see itself as choosing sides in space politics but instead committing to contribute positively to the ambitious goal of becoming a multi-planet species, starting with the Moon.

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