2020 has remained a challenging year for the world around and I was no exception. Personally, it was a trying year with a lot of dislocations. Nevertheless, it has been a satisfying year, professionally speaking.
In March 2020, I was offered to join the Perth USAsia Centre as part of their inaugural Indo-Pacific Fellow programme for a period of nine months. While I represented India, there were colleagues, one each from Australia, Japan, Indonesia and Vietnam. It was a very fulfilling experience. As part of the fellowship, I did a number of essays and webinars: Towards A Quad-Plus Arrangement?; Uneasy Contradictions Continue in India's Strategic Engagements; Countering ChineseAssertiveness: India’sChanging Posture in the Indian Ocean; and a forthcoming one, looking at how India-Australia relations will continue to get stronger in the face of an aggressive China.
I got a peer reviewed journal article, "India's Emerging Space Assets and Nuclear-Weapons Capabilities" published in The Non-proliferation Review in March 2020. In this article, I argue that over the last five decades, India’s nuclear and space programs have gone through several phases, from collaboration to divorce to supportive. An interplay of two factors determined the nature of the relationship. One was the state of India’s nuclear-weapon program. The second was international conditions, especially India’s relationship with the nuclear-nonproliferation regime. In the early decades, because of the rudimentary nature of India’s nuclear and space programs, the relationship was collaborative, since the rocket technology being developed was a necessary adjunct to the nuclear-weapon program. Subsequently, as India’s rocketry capabilities and nuclear-weapon program began to mature and concerns about international sanctions under the non-proliferation regime began to grow, the two programs were separated. The Indian rocketry program was also divided, with the civilian-space and ballistic-missile programs clearly demarcated. After India declared itself a nuclear-weapon state in 1998 and the programs matured, the relationship has become more supportive. As the two programs mature further, this relationship is likely to deepen, as the nuclear-weapon program requires space assets to build a robust and survivable nuclear deterrent force.
In May 2020, the Office of Principal Scientific Adviser to the Government of India and the Department of Science and Technology invited me to be part of the process of formulating India's new Science, Technology, and Innovation Policy (STIP 2020). As part of the STIP 2020 policy drafting exercise, 21 thematic groups (TGs) were constituted and I was asked to be a member and Co-Chair of the TG-Strategic Technologies. It was such an honour and privilege for me to part of this exercise, discussing and coming up with recommendations on India's strategic technologies. The report should be out within a few months, I guess.
In October 202, I was invited to be part of the Editorial Board of Asian Security. It is one of the top ranking journals on various aspects of national and international security in Asia. I am honoured and delighted to be joining the journal in this capacity.
In November 2020, I was part of the Bloomberg-Intelligence Squared US debate, "That's Debatable - Is A U.S.-China Space Race Good for Humanity?". The debate was aired on November 7, 2020 and it is available at: https://www.intelligencesquaredus.org/debates/us-china-space-race-good-humanity. American theoretical physicist, Prof. Michio Kaku and I argued against the motion, and Prof. Avi Loeb and Bidhushi Bhattacharya argued for the motion, and so well-moderated by John Donvan. This was so much fun and we won the debate.
I thought I will highlight some of my professional activities here but I have updated my blog with most of these developments on a reasonably regular basis.