Special India Edition - Celebrating 75 Years of Independence of India

India Independence: The rise of a space power

Written By: Vyomica Berry- WION Web Team
India's IRNSS-1D navigation satellite launches on March 28, 2015 from Satish Dhawan Space Center. (Image credit: ISRO)

The space research activities were initiated in India during the early 1960s, when applications using satellites were in experimental stages even in the United States

As India completes 75 years of its independence, it is time to introspect the country’s space programme that has grown and evolved significantly in the last decades.

The programme originally focused on developing space assets that provided direct developmental benefits, for example, telecommunications and remote sensing satellites that helped both in improving communication facilities and giving direct assistance to India’s farmers.

But over time, India has shifted a part of its focus towards space exploration and other high-profile missions. This includes, for example, India’s Mars and Moon exploratory missions.

Overall, India has been fairly successful in these efforts and its space programme has become a comprehensive one that includes not only a robust launch capacity and very large remote sensing satellite systems, but also a very well-rounded scientific and deep space exploratory programme.


The space research activities were initiated in India during the early 1960s, when applications using satellites were in experimental stages even in the United States. With the live transmission of Tokyo Olympic Games across the Pacific by the American Satellite ‘Syncom-3’ demonstrating the power of communication satellites, Dr Vikram Sarabhai, the founding father of Indian space programme, quickly recognised the benefits of space technologies for India.

As a first step, the Department of Atomic Energy formed the Indian National Committee for Space Research (INCOSPAR) under the leadership of Dr Sarabhai and Dr Ramanathan in 1962. Later, the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) was formed on August 15, 1969. The prime objective of ISRO is to develop space technology and its application to various national needs.

It is one of the six largest space agencies in the world today. The Department of Space (DOS) and the Space Commission were set up in 1972 and ISRO was brought under DOS on June 1, 1972.

In 1984, air force pilot Rakesh Sharma was the first Indian to go into space, riding in a Soviet spacecraft.

Since its inception, the Indian space programme has been orchestrated well and had three distinct elements: satellites for communication and remote sensing, space transportation system and application programmes. Two major operational systems have been established – the Indian National Satellite (INSAT) for telecommunication, television broadcasting, and meteorological services and the Indian Remote Sensing Satellite (IRS) for monitoring and management of natural resources and Disaster Management Support.

Finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman had announced that India will allow the involvement of private companies in its space exploration and satellite launch programmes.

Both industries are currently predominantly operated by ISRO.

Planning manned space flights and a space station

India wants to launch its first manned space mission in 2022, to mark the 75th anniversary of the nation’s independence. Codenamed Gaganyaan, a space vehicle in Sanskrit, the project has a budget of almost $1.5 billion.

Gaganyaan will have a crew of two or three people and spend around seven days in low Earth orbit. ISRO says the mission is the first step towards building India’s own space station, which it plans to do in five to seven years.

Months after Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s election in 2014, India became the first Asian nation to reach Mars when its first mission to the red planet entered orbit, at a cost of $74 million, or less than the budget of the Hollywood space blockbuster “Gravity”.

The country is planning to launch another space probe to Mars along with its first manned space mission by 2022. It has also approved a project to study the sun late next year, and ISRO chairman Dr K Sivan has reportedly said that he wants to reach Venus in 2023.

India is planning these ambitious missions on the back of its development of a range of increasingly large launch rockets, culminating in the GSLV Mk III, which is as powerful as the Saturn V, the rocket that launched the Apollo moon missions”.

National security

India’s already robust space programme has also acquired national security implications over the last decade. This is partly driven by India’s growing technological capacity. But an important reason for this change is the evolving security threats that India faced, especially in relation with Pakistan and China. The perceived need to keep pace with the expansion of Pakistan’s ballistic missile capabilities has become stronger over the years, making India much more willing to consider the utility of such weapon systems. In addition, China’s first successful anti-satellite (ASAT) test in January 2007 suddenly made India’s space-based assets vulnerable. India thus had to consider developing its own ASAT capability, at least as a deterrent to anybody else using ASATs against Indian assets in space.

China’s achievements in space led not only to India’s own ASAT programme, but also to other elements that enhanced the security component of India’s space programme.

As the military characteristics of its space programme are becoming more evident, India is also moving away from its traditional position of non-weaponisation of space to a more nuanced approach to its national space policy. While the official policy itself has not changed, India is beginning to have a much more determined approach to how it wants to protect its assets in outer space as well as its ground infrastructure and the services linked to space.

One of the biggest shifts evident in the last decade is the development of India’s military space capabilities and the establishment of the institutional architecture that supports the new functions and roles for space in India’s national security calculations.

In particular, India established a Defence Space Agency (DSA) in April 2019, which is expected to be the forerunner for a full-fledged aerospace command. It is also establishing a Defence Space Research Organisation (DSRO), which is meant to undertake research and development on the capability mix that is required as per the strategy and policy developed by the DSA.

In a first, India conducted a space security table-top war game called “IndSpaceEx” in late July 2019, which involved all the different stakeholders such as the military and the scientific establishment.

This is another reflection of the growing synergistic approach between space and the military. The Indian space programme, thus, is being carried along not only because of its developmental needs, but also because of larger international political factors, such as the heightening international tension, great power competition and the lack of sufficient safeguards, international norms and institutions to protect the non-weaponisation of outer space.

A leader in satellite launches for other nations

There are more than 2,000 working satellites orbiting the earth. Almost half of them belong to US-based organisations, 300 originate from China and roughly half that number is from Russia.

The market for commercial space launches is crowded and competitive, with Russia’s Soyuz and Vega launchers competing with those of the European Space Agency and the reusable rockets flown by US entrepreneur Elon Musk’s SpaceX corporation.

Commercial satellites now heavily outnumber those used by the military.

Clearly, India is a leader in this segment. For the nation, as far as space is concerned, the sky is not the limit.

This article was first published in WION (www.wionews.com)



India's macroeconomy more healthy, ready for faster growth

Ashima Goyal

5 October 2021

Notwithstanding the pandemic severe shock, India's macroeconomy is more healthy and ready for faster growth, eminent economist Ashima Goyal said, observing that recovery from both the first and second waves was faster than expected points towards inherent strengths of the economy.

Goyal in an interview with PTI said there are already signs of a rise in private investment in sectors where capacity constraints have appeared.

"Despite the Covid-19 severe shock, India's macroeconomy is more healthy and ready for faster growth than it has been for a long time. That recovery from both the first and second waves was faster than expected points towards inherent strengths of the economy," she said.

The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has lowered the country's growth projection for the current financial year to 9.5 per cent from 10.5 per cent estimated earlier, while the World Bank has projected India's economy to grow at 8.3 per cent in 2021.

Goyal, who is also a member of the Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) of the Reserve Bank, said that although many Indian start-ups are doing well "we should not, however, expect the private infrastructure investment boom of the 2000s."

"Portfolio inflows into India are not only due to the quantitative easing of rich countries' central banks, they are also attracted by India's growth prospects. All emerging markets do not get such inflows," the eminent economist opined.

She pointed out that the government is leading infrastructure investment and more durable foreign direct investment has a larger share in recent capital inflows.

"India, moreover, has enough reserves to ride out any volatility while ensuring interest rates are aligned to the domestic policy cycle," she said.

On the stock market boom at a time when economic growth has slowed down, Goyal said stock markets are forward looking, so normally they do move ahead of the real economy.

"Low interest rates also increase the present discounted value of future earnings and reduce the attractiveness of fixed deposits. A wider Indian public has started participating in stock markets giving them a more diversified portfolio of assets," she said.

Observing that having different investor-types makes markets more stable and reduces volatility, Goyal said "gradual rise in policy interest rates need not lead to a major correction if the rise accompanies a growth recovery, which is positive for markets and long term growth prospects remain good."

On recent calls for using the huge forex reserves for infrastructure development or recapitalisation of public sector banks, the economist said Indian forex reserves are not earned by an excess of exports over imports.

"They are borrowed reserves built up from foreign inflows that create liabilities. Reserves have to be kept in a liquid form and capital-value preserved to meet repayment obligations," she said, adding they give security but are costly.

According to Goyal, the best way to prevent excessive reserve accumulation is to increase absorption of foreign inflows in productive investment.

"Until this happens, inflows could be mitigated using market-based capital flow management tools. A push for better international regulation and safety nets should also continue," she said.

Replying to a question on the RBI's proposed digital currency, Goyal said correctly designed digital currency would have many advantages.

"It could build on India's exemplary innovations in payment systems, ease cross-border flows, reduce costs, improve transparency, financial inclusion and monetary policy transmission all in partnership with banks," she said.

On the Asset Monetisation Pipeline programme, Goyal said this a good innovative addition to the toolkit for financing new infrastructure.

She pointed out that private participation is easier since there is no project risk, which is the most difficult for private players to handle.

"But PPP contracts have to strike a fine balance between government revenues, private profits and reasonable user charges. Good regulation is a prerequisite to ensure the latter," she cautioned.

Asked if high CPI and WPI inflation is a matter of concern, she said inflation is currently within tolerance bands.

"Signs of persistence are limited implying it is largely due to Covid-19 related global and domestic supply-side bottlenecks and should be transient, provided the government undertakes complementary supply-side actions," she noted.

On what else can the RBI do to help economic recovery, the eminent economist said the RBI has done a lot through timely yet temporary measures that limit long-term dependence and risky-behaviour.

According to her, some measures are already reversed.

"Targeted liquidity programmes that ensure liquidity reaches every corner of the economy should continue.

"Further normalisation has to be slow and gradual conditional on recovery so as to anchor inflation expectations yet sustain growth and ensure financial stability," she said.

Asked what fiscal measures are necessary to support households in distress, Goyal said that the fiscal deficit is already in double digits and interest payments take up the biggest chunk of revenue.

"Given our very large population, protection transfers of the advanced economy type would require

our deficits to rise to 50 per cent of GDP, which is not feasible," she said.

Noting that funds have to be well and carefully used, she said that free food helps the very poor and disabled but the best targeted support for most households in distress is to increase job availability and capacity to work through better support for health, training and education.

"The focus on infrastructure is also useful since it creates jobs now and makes it easier to work later," she said.

This article was first published in Business Standard (www.business-standard.com)


India has installed 100 GW renewable energy capacity, inching closer to target

By Simrin Sirur

2 October 2021

India crossed the 100-gigawatt (GW) mark of installed renewable energy capacity, according to a statement by the Government of India, bringing it one step closer to its renewable energy targets.

“The total installed renewable energy capacity in India, excluding large hydro, has crossed the mile-stone of 100 GW. Today India stands at 4th position in the world in terms of installed RE capacity, 5th in solar and 4th in wind in terms of installed capacity,” the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy said in a statement.

The Narendra Modi government had set an initial target of installing 175 GW of renewable energy capacity, including wind, solar, and hydro, by 2022. It increased this target later to 450 GW by 2030.

“While 100 GW has been installed, 50 GW is under installation and 27 GW is under tendering. India has also enhanced its ambition to install 450 GW of renewable energy capacity by 2030. If large hydro is included the installed RE capacity increases to 146 GW,” the statement said.

The announcement comes days after the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released a damning report on the state of global warming across the world. “Many changes due to past and future greenhouse gas emissions are irreversible for centuries to millennia, especially changes in the ocean, ice sheets and global sea level,” it said.

India’s green goals

In the 2015 Paris Agreement, India pledged to generate 40 per cent of India’s power through renewable energy, and create a carbon sink capable of absorbing 2.5 billion-3 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide through additional forest and tree cover.

It also made a commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 33 to 35 per cent of its intensity of GDP below 200

5 levels. However, India has resisted pressure from the West to cut down its emissions to net zero, saying it is an unfair demand.

In its report, the IPCC said temperatures would continue to rise well above the 2 deg Celsius limit (above pre-industrial levels), “unless deep reductions in CO2 and other greenhouse gas emissions occur in the coming decades”.

In a statement on 9 August, the government said the report “vindicated” India’s position that “historical cumulative emissions” were the source of the world’s warming climate, and said it was well on its way to achieving its 2015 Paris Agreement goals.

The government added it had taken many measures to reduce emissions, such as, “setting up of International Solar Alliance, Coalition for Disaster Resilient Infrastructure, raising the domestic renewable energy target to 450 GW by 2030 and putting in place an ambitious National Hydrogen Mission and continuing efforts to decouple its emissions from economic growth”.

This article was first published in The Print (theprint.in)


Mother India at 75

By Advocate Ajay Sooklal, Dr. Srimal Fernando and Mr. Kirtan Bhana

Women ministers in PM Modi's team don handloom saris reflecting India's sartorial diversity. Seven women MPs took oath as union ministers in the expansion of the council of ministers in July this year. Pictured (l-r) Darshana Jardosh - Minister for Railways and Textiles, Pratima Bhoumik - Minister of Social Justice and Empowerment, Shobha Karandlaje - Minister of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare, Smriti Z Irani - Minister for Women and Child Development, Nirmala Sitharaman - Minister of Finance and Corporate Affairs, Bharati Pravin Pawar - Minister of Health and Family Welfare, Meenakshi Lekhi - Minister of External Affairs and Culture, Anupriya Patel - Minister for Commerce and Industry and Annapurna Devi - Minister of Education.

15 August 2021

As the Indian tri-colour lights up buildings around the world and Jai Hind rings out not only in the sub-continent, but in many parts of the world, India celebrates and commemorates 75 years of progressive India and the glorious history of its people, culture and achievements.

Bharat, as India is also known, was a source of higher knowledge and wisdom for several thousand years as documentation of calendars and other historical records show. They also show that there was a deep understanding of the cosmos and its effects and influence on seasonal changes, weather patterns and climate conditions among others. Having this kind of information led to a multitude of discoveries in Physics, Chemistry and Mathematics, which are evident in the rich heritage of the Indian sub-continent.

At 75 years of Indian independence from its last occupier, colonial Britain, the Republic of India has acknowledged the impact its recent past has had in the current context and is in acceptance of the new challenges and opportunities of the present reality as it forges ahead innovating a better future. The nation of over a billion people has turned another corner as it defines itself in a rapidly transforming geo politic, changing social behaviour and re-aligning economic patterns.

The neighbourhood first policy of the democratically elected government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatya Janata Party (BJP) and its National Democratic Alliance (NDA) coalition takes into cognisance the commonality of the traditions and customs of the inhabitants of the region. The observance of 14 August as ‘Partition Horrors Remembrance Day’ is a solemn reminder of the gruesome violence that tore a nation asunder resulting in a mindless conflict that still rages on today.

The 75th year of independence is also shared among other nations in the region and so is a new dynamic of solidarity brought about by the Covid-19 viral pandemic afflicting the global population. ‘Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam’ - the world is one family - is the Sanskrit term that was used by Prime Minister Modi at the World Cultural Festival.

India, with its 912 million eligible voters roll, is the world’s largest democracy. In 2019 the month long election process saw the highest voter turnout since the adoption of a parliamentary democracy and constitution. Women voters accounted for the increase in the percentage of ballots cast. The number of women cabinet ministers has also grown and so has the participation of women in the Lok Sabha (House of the People) in the Indian Parliament.

India’s influence in the world has also vastly expanded. The presence of India in the UNSC in 2021 offers a unique opportunity for it to present its performance and capability in the global arena. Assuming the country's first Presidency during its 2021-22 tenure as a non-permanent member of the 15-nation UN body on 1st August, India took up the rotating Presidency of the UN Security Council. As Chair of BRICS this year India will host the 13th BRICS Summit under the theme ‘BRICS@15: Intra-BRICS Cooperation for Continuity, Consolidation and Consensus’. India will chair the G-20 in 2023. This period particularly provides the opportunity to drive India’s case for a position on the global high table.

The geopolitical significance of the Indian Ocean region combining Asia, Africa and Australasia is calling for greater attention of India’s foreign policy. The Defence Policy of India has been characterized by the status-quo with no aspirations for expansion or domination. Since independence, India has not been militarily dominant but instead has demonstrated a solid standing in resisting subordination. In the course of international relations, India has pursued a course of neutrality in its foreign policy orientation. Emerging as a regional power, a big leap forward in India’s defence policy was the launching of the aircraft carrier INS Vikramaditya commissioned in 2013.

Since independence, during the last seventy five years, India’s successive prime ministers have brought about changes to the country’s foreign policy while responding to the globally evolving geopolitical dynamics. The foreign policy approach of India has been chiefly characterized by coordinating its policies in line with the multipolar system and balancing its external policy expressions with outreach to various regions and regional groupings. It is about time now for India to transform its foreign policy from strategic autonomy to strategic influence. In order to create a sense of balance it appears reasonable to conclude that this article reflects on strengthening India’s security agenda in the six sub regions of the Indian Ocean through the five equally important Indian foreign policies: Neighbourhood First; Act East; Indo Pacific; Link West and Focus Africa Plan. The advancement of India’s strategic interests and opportunities for economic cooperation are provided through the various regional groupings of the region spanning from Asia, Africa and Australia. Hence, India should seize the opportunity of building closer bilateral and multilateral collaboration to boost its Economic and Foreign Policy agendas.

India can be seen to be engaging more with her neighbours in South and South East Asia with a new approach to managing big power relations. Cultural and economic diversity is a characteristic that describes the South Asian region. Over the years, this region has experienced various stages of transition. With the evolving geopolitical concerns in the South Asian region, Sri Lanka has been prompted to forge a deeper commitment to SAARC. India’s role in SAARC is significant given that it outlines the dynamics of interaction and political will between member nations. Having the concepts of peace and stability in mind, commercial diplomacy with a focus on developing wide-ranging foreign policies with India’s neighbours within the SAARC region will go a long way in supplementing the short-term responses to the pandemic's economic challenges. Going forward, to secure an economy that is resilient, India’s policy approach will need to prioritize the promotion of bilateral ties and enhance collaboration with its neighbours.

With its current Act East foreign policy, India is positioned powerfully among the member states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). India’s strategic autonomy and foreign policy principles of Non-alignment (NAM) have allowed the country to sustain a key place and respect among the South East Asian nations and beyond. ASEAN-India collaboration has taken an enormous leap as they successfully signed a free trade agreement, namely the ASEAN-India Free Trade Area (AIFTA) that came into force in 2010.

Over the last seven decades, US diplomacy with the Indian subcontinent has changed considerably. Reshaping the interests and the interdependencies of the United States (US) with India and other South Asian democracies, is the noteworthy renaming of the region as ‘Indo-Pacific’ that was previously known as ‘Asia-Pacific’. India has been one of the major beneficiaries of the new US foreign policy agenda.

The space policy of India is undergoing significant changes. When India was a newly independent nation, in the early decades of developing its space programme, India was very conscious of its resource constraints. However, over just more than the last decade, India, through the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) successfully launched Mangalyaan, the Mars Orbiter Mission and India’s lunar probe Chandrayaan 1. ISRO is one of very few government space agencies that has full launch capabilities.

India has stepped up efforts to lift the country’s sport profile in the global arena resulting in significant results. In the 2020 Summer Olympics held in Tokyo, India was represented by a record number of 124 athletes. India finished 48th on the medal tally, its highest ranking in over four decades.

‘Peaking at the right time’ is a phrase often associated with the world of sport, referring to an athlete who has attained the peak of performance when it is ideally needed to ensure success. This analogy can be attributed to India’s rise at a poignant time in the order of things in the world.

The rights guaranteed in the constitution, the ideals of freedom of expression and association and religious worship has led to the articulation of innovation and development. Space exploration, high technological advances in information, communication, infrastructure and manufacturing is as a direct result of the dynamism and diversity of the people. Achievements in the arts, sciences and commerce can also be attributed to the desire to succeed and be recognized as India finds its freedom from generations of tyranny, enslavement and occupation.

Advocate Ajay Sooklal is an Economic and Legal Diplomacy Consultant, Dr. Srimal Fernando is TDS Inter Regional Relations Advisor and Mr. Kirtan Bhana is Director at The Diplomatic Society.