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U.S.-India Missile Defense and Space Cooperation
AFPC Conference Room
June 4, 2012
The AFPC hosted an informative briefing session on 4 June, 2012, on the potential for US-India cooperation in missile defense and space security. The briefing was delivered by prominent expert in the field Dr. Bharath Gopalaswamy for the benefit of Congressional Staffers, South Asia experts, AFPC fellows and a representative from NASA.
Dr. Gopalaswamy opened the discussion with a summary of India’s defense readiness in the field. Major shortcomings included insufficient defense and detection systems for enemy ballistic missiles, anti-satellite weapons and space objects. Though India’s Defense Research Development Organization (DRDO) has promised to work on the issues, not enough attention is being paid to the weaknesses by the defense administration, and foreign collaboration will be necessary to overcome India’s vulnerabilities. The United States has a promising opportunity to work with India on spatial awareness technology – systems that can detect incoming objects at high altitudes- for a mutually beneficial relationship.
Another major concern that was voiced by the Indian Armed Forces was the lack of a formal agreement between India and countries in charge of satellite navigation systems allowing India to use such technology at times of conflict. Though India collaborated with Russia to assemble its GLONASS system, no official guarantee has been reached for military use of the Russian system by India.
After highlighting India’s defense vulnerabilities and opportunities for cooperation, Dr. Gopalaswamy went on to mention the challenges facing a strong India-US cooperation in the sector. The primary issues he raised were bureaucracy on the part of India’s civilian establishment and hesitancy to work with foreign powers in the field of defense that could be traced back to India’s Non-Alignment mentality during the Cold War. After taking questions, Dr. Gopalaswamy concluded on the optimistic note that a new crop of India’s leaders would likely be better attuned with India’s defense needs and more willing to work with the United States. For the immediate future, collaboration on spatial awareness capabilities appears to be the most promising avenue for US-India partnership in space security and missile defense.
Dr. Bharath Gopalaswamy is currently the Associate Director of the Program in Arms Control Disarmament and International Security at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Before his work at Urbana Champaign, Dr. Gopalaswamy was a researcher at the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute's (SIPRI) Arms Control and Non-proliferation Programme, where he specialized in space security and missile defense.