Indian speakers and participants at the January conference in New Delhi raised several common themes. First, most believe that of course India needs to have an ASAT program: no question about it in their minds, as they see it as a deterrent to attacks on their space assets. They also see an ASAT program as something that they need because they live “in a dangerous neighborhood,” i.e., the Chinese have it, so they cannot afford not to develop it. Raised several times was the idea that because India has so much invested in space, it cannot afford to lose its space assets, so it must be able to win “the preparatory phase” if there was to be some sort of war with China (as in an ASAT shooting match that would happen prior to a more conventional conflict on the ground).
Interestingly enough, even though every speaker talked about the need to keep up with the Chinese, everyone there (except for the Americans) felt that there was no such thing as an Asian space race. Yet keeping up with the Chinese implies a competition, which is the very essence of a race. It is not the same as the Cold War race to the Moon, certainly, but there is an effort to achieve or maintain parity. The Indians also seem to be very suspicious about China’s efforts in the UN Conference on Disarmament (CD), where Beijing and Moscow have been actively promoting their space arms control treaty, the PPWT (Treaty on the Prevention of the Placement of Weapons in Outer Space, the Threat or Use of Force against Outer Space Objects).
By Victoria Samson