Space Cooperation with India Vitally Important, Says US

By Arun Kumar

Washington, Jun 29 (IANS): Recognising the emergence of new spacefaring nations like India, President Barack Obama focuses on international cooperation on issues ranging from controlling space junk to national-security projects in his new national space policy.

In a marked departure from his predecessor George Bush's unilateral approach, the new policy seeks to significantly expand space cooperation with other countries "to the greatest extent practicable" in designing, executing and sharing data from future programmes.

Focusing on international issues such as arms control in space, the policy unlike Bush expresses the administration's willingness to "consider" arms control agreements in space.

In rolling out the new approach, Peter Marquez, a senior National Security Council official, said "cooperation with India is vitally important" and some discussions already have broached cooperation in civilian as well as national-security arenas.

The US greatly values India's emergence as a global player in space and research and aims to deepen its cooperation with India in the field of space, a White House official said noting has a "very space friendly" programme.

In March 2010, a US space agency NASA radar experiment aboard Chandrayaan-1, India's first lunar spacecraft launched by the Indian Space Research Organisation in October 2008, found thick deposits of water-ice near the Moon's North Pole.

Noting that priorities have changed because the US is no longer "racing against an adversary" such as the former Soviet Union, Obama stressed that "one of our central goals is to promote peaceful cooperation and collaboration" as a way to prevent conflicts in space.

"All nations have the right to use and explore space," according to the policy document, but the US "calls on all nations to work together to adopt approaches" to reduce risks and responsibly share the benefits.

Obama's policy also carries a warning that Washington will use "a variety of measures" to deter or respond to attacks on US space systems or those of US allies "consistent with the inherent right of self defence."

Developed after a year of deliberations among US officials and consultation with allies, the latest principles represent "a bold departure from previous space policies" under Bush, according to Barry Pavel, another senior NSC official.

The increased emphasis on international approaches to a range of space-related issues reflects growth in the number of countries relying on satellites in space for communications, navigation, disaster-relief coordination, as well as national security.


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