Friday, April 29, 2011

China Issues White Paper on Foreign Aid

Now China issues a White Paper on its foreign aid policy as well. What next? Are they trying to ridicule the whole campaign for openness and transparency?

Here's the link to the Chinese White Paper on foreign aid titled, "China's Foreign Aid," released on April 21, 2011.

The Preface says, "Adhering to equality and mutual benefit, stressing substantial results, and keeping pace with the times without imposing any political conditions on recipient countries, China's foreign aid has emerged as a model with its own characteristics."

For the full report, click here.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Post-Japan, the hunt for the safest option

Here's the link to an article of mine that appeared in today's Pioneer about the space based solar power option.

The nuclear meltdown in northern Japan has confirmed our worst fears about nuclear energy. Tragically, India continues to blindly follow the discarded notions of yesterday, ignoring viable possibilities like solar power

With the nuclear crisis still unfolding in Japan, there is fresh thinking around the world about the safety of the nuclear energy option. While India has examined several alternative energy options, no single option is likely to be a magic bullet. It will probably be wise to look at other options including ones that have not yet been seriously considered as yet.

Under such a scenario, it may be a good time for India to explore the option of space-based solar power (SBSP) — a possibility that has not caught the popular or government attention very much, for a variety of reasons. Unlike the ground-based solar power option, SBSP does not have problems like cloud cover or availability of sunlight and so on.

The SBSP option is likely to be costly. While cost may have been the most serious impediment in making the SBSP option a reality so far, there has been lack of direction and commitment from the political leadership that has also contributed to this. Exploiting space for solar power is not a new idea although it has remained a theoretical exercise for a number of reasons, including because of the lobbying by other alternate energy groups.

SBSP involves using extremely large satellites made up of a large number of solar cells to collect the sun’s energy, convert it to radio waves to be beamed to antenna farms on the ground where it is reconverted to energy.

The scale of such a project will be large but the SBSP is comparable to several mega projects undertaken in the past by both India and the US — the US National Highway project or the Indian rural electrification programme are two cases in point. On cost, experts opine that developing a prototype or putting a 10 MW demonstrator in GEO (geosynchronous Earth orbit), using exiting launch vehicles, will be to the tune of around $10 billion over 10 years. Collaboration with other space-faring nations will bring down the cost to make it a cheaper, safer and cleaner option. More important is the need to calculate the cost on the basis of both direct and indirect cost of climate change and environmental issues. Also, this will be a huge effort in strengthening international hi-tech cooperation, creating several spin-off benefits, including job creation and gaining access to advanced technology.

In the recent past, former President APJ Abdul Kalam promoted the idea of SBSP at the Aeronautical Society of India (AeSI) and later at a NSS (US-based National Space Society) press conference in Washington DC last year. This initiative as of now remains an India-US initiative although it needs to be broadened, may be at a later stage, to set up a larger consortium to make SBSP into a viable proposition.

Why SBSP? Speaking in November last year, Dr Kalam highlighted the huge energy shortage that India and the world would be facing in the next few decades. Kalam estimated that by 2050, even if one were to use all possible sources of energy, there will be a global shortage to the tune of 66 per cent. On the other hand, if one were to use the SBSP option, the world would move from an energy deficit to an energy surplus situation. Additionally, the clean and safe energy option will go a long way in solving the world’s climate change woes.

At the India-US level, this initiative is associated with some key technocrats such as Dr Kalam, Mark Hopkins, CEO of the NSS, John Mankins from the Space Power Association and a veteran of NASA and also Dr TK Alex from the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) Satellite Centre, Bangalore who is also heading the Chandrayaan Project. Participation of TK Alex in a sense gives an official colour to the project.

On the Indian side, some preliminary studies were done in 1987 on advanced space transportation system at a conceptual level to make SBSP a cheaper option, but there has been no follow up. In the recent past, the ISRO has been engaged in getting some additional technical studies on the feasibility of this option, looking at three specific configurations. While continuing with the technical feasibility studies, ISRO has also made it clear that it can proceed only if they get suitable proposals/funding from foreign governments. While the technical studies are one aspect of it, more important is the need for a clear directive from the government. A clear political mandate calling upon the technocrats and scientific community to develop the necessary technologies is one way to take this option forward. The government can thereafter be a facilitator if it seeks foreign collaboration, for instance. But the initiative has to come from the political leadership.

What are India’s options to make SBSP a real viable option given the cost factor and technology? Can the governments and the private sectors of both India and the US make serious commitments to take the first step towards R&D investment on SBSP? It might be worth the effort to place the SBSP initiative within the US-India S&T Endowment and Board. The Indo-US S&T Fund finances projects on an entire range of issues from biotechnology, advanced materials and nanotechnology science to clean energy technologies, basic space and atmospheric and earth science. Other countries making significant investment in this area include Japan that has made an investment of $21 bn for the next few years. India and the US can take the lead to establish an international consortium based on cost sharing and more importantly on international technology cooperation.

Countries like India and the US need to take up initiatives to do major technological demonstrations and milestone projects, which will have far reaching consequences across political, strategic and technological spheres. Cooperation on SBSP will convey a major strategic message.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Navigating the Near: Non-Traditional Security Threats to India, 2022 -- the book is out and am one of the authors ...

A study titled, Navigating the Near: Non-Traditional Security Threats to India, 2022, done for the Ministry of Defence, is now published as a book, for wider dissemination. The study was authored by me and four other colleagues of mine from ORF.

National Security is most often thought of in terms of political and military threats to the State-either from other States or geo-strategic alliances. Given such a framework, both the challenges as well as the responses have for long been viewed in terms of military force or coercive ability of the adversary.

Events unfolding in today's highly networked and globalised economies show the futility, and danger, of relying on such a simplistic template. Threats to national security are today multi-dimensional and call for a deeper study and understanding of a wide variety of factors to create a credible and deterrent response mechanism.

Navigating the Near seeks to bridge this paradigm shift by studying non-traditional threats facing contemporary India. The study, with its sight on the next decade, evaluates how traditional threats confronting India are likely to be influenced in large measure by a range of factors and trends, both external and internal, that have, till now, remained on the fringes of security studies.

Type rest of the post here

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

More Economic BRICS in the Development Wall

Here's the link to a news story by Ranjit Devraj of the IPS on the recent BRICS Summit, quoting me.

As BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) leaders prepare for Thursday’s summit in the resort town of Sanya in China’s southern Hainan province, experts here say there are limits to how ‘political’ the grouping can get.

For the full story, continue reading.

Leading China analyst Prof.Sujit Dutta told IPS that while it is true that BRICS countries are no longer "marginal players" in international politics, they are rooted in their own economic and geographical realities.

"While South Africa, the latest entrant into the BRICS grouping, did vote with the West on military intervention in Libya, it could not easily ignore the fact that it was also an Africa issue," said Dutta, who currently teaches at the Nelson Mandela Centre for Peace and Conflict Resolution, Jamia Millia Islamia University in New Delhi.

"And if the other BRICS countries abstained from voting at the U.N. Security Council on Libya, that must have been the result of their own assessments," Dutta said. "When it comes to taking political positions, everybody is cautious, and that will be the trend in the foreseeable future."

Dutta said while BRICS is bound to increase its clout, its power as a grouping will depend on its ability to shape constructive change by bringing to the table modes of thought that lie outside the traditional East-West pattern.

"In a sense Libya was a test case for BRICS and threw up many disturbing questions," Dutta said. "The Libyan regime may have been authoritarian, but was it genocidal? Did it pose a threat to international security? Aren’t authoritarian Arab regimes being propped up by the West?"

Ultimately, Dutta said, BRICS will increase in value simply because of the fact that the world is rapidly becoming more diversified and also more integrated, throwing up new issues. "For example, how will the world deal with China’s aggressive state capitalism and the complex issues that will get thrown up because of it?"

Speaking to journalists before his departure for Sanya on Tuesday, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh dwelt on the "huge potential" of BRICS, provided they improve coordination on major issues of common concern to the five-member grouping.

But Singh was careful to say that such coordination should focus on the world economy, a democratic and equitable world order, and global governance reform.

Singh noted the fact that all BRICS countries are currently in the U.N. Security Council.

"If we can coordinate our positions on some key area such as sustainable development, balanced growth, energy and food security, reform of international financial institutions and balanced trade, that will be to our advantage," he said.

The Hindu newspaper’s foreign affairs correspondent Sandeep Dikshit wrote in a lead story datelined Sanya that (Indian) officials had "cautioned against reading too much into the accent on political discussions at the BRICS summit because this is more of a negotiating group with other world powers, than a coordinating one."

In his statement Singh said he looked forward to Wednesday’s bilateral meeting, including the one with Chinese President Hu Jintao. The India-China relationship is a critical one, and has now acquired global significance."

Rajeswari Rajagopalan, senior fellow at the independent and influential Organiser Research Foundation (ORF) based in New Delhi said India’s thorny relationship with China represented the sort of difficulties that BRICS will have to overcome or steer around to become truly effective as group.

"There is a trust deficit when it comes to Beijing’s relations with New Delhi, or even its relations with Moscow, that cannot be easily swept under the carpet," Rajagopalan told IPS.

"On the other hand," she said, "China needs India’s large markets and, during his visit to India in December, Chinese premier Wen Jiabao generously said that the long-standing border dispute between them could be left to future generations to resolve."

Currently, India has reason to worry about a military and infrastructural buildup along the ‘Line of Actual Control’ that serves as part of the border and about China’s nuclear cooperation with Pakistan.

Such niggling issues have, however, not stood in the way of bilateral trade between Asia’s two major Asian economies growing from 2 billion dollars in 1999 to nearly 60 billion dollars in 2010.

Rajagopalan said that the balance of trade was hugely in favour of China, and that Indian enterprise was being kept out of certain areas of the Chinese market. This includes possible ventures in information technology, pharmaceuticals and agriculture, where India has acknowledged strengths.

"These are issues that the Indian side can be expected to bring up in any bilateral with China," Rajagopalan said.

BRICS, said Rajagopalan, has by and large remained a forum that has debated or taken positions on "soft issues" such as climate change and trade, and has glaringly lacked strategic content to be able to effect significant changes in global politics.

Although three of the BRICS countries are active and credible nuclear and space powers, the group has not managed to initiate a dialogue on non- proliferation or outer space issues, Rajgopal pointed out.

The Sanya summit, she said, can be expected not to stray too far beyond the theme of "Broad Vision and Shared Prosperity" for the five BRICS countries, which account for nearly 30 percent of the world’s land area, 42 percent of the global population, and make up 18 percent of the world GDP.

China’s ambassador to India, Zhan Yan, in an article published on the editorial page of the Hindu on Wednesday emphasised that BRICS cooperation has provided "a valuable platform for the five countries to share development experiences and work together on development problems.

"BRICS countries are amongst the fastest growing economies in the world with tremendous potential. The cooperation among BRICS members reflects the development of international situation as well as the desire and choice of emerging economies," the ambassador writes.

"The issues discussed by BRICS members mainly focus on the economic, financial and development issues. In a sense, BRICS countries act as advocates and practitioners in forging a global partnership for development."

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

PM's China Visit: BRICS and the Bilateral Dynamics

Here's the link to an article of mine on the PM's visit to China, published by ORF. Indian Prime Minister has left for China for the third BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and now South Africa) Summit, but one of the key questions is as to what such coalitions mean for India-China bilateral relations.

For the full article, click here.

Besides the BRICS Summit in Sanya, on Hainan Island, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Chinese President Hu Jintao are scheduled to hold separate bilateral meetings, discuss a range of issues from economic to political and strategic issues. However, the Chinese officials have clarified to the Indian side that only multilateral issues and trade (establishing a strategic economic dialogue at the BRICS level is one item on the agenda) be discussed and that bilateral controversial issues are off the table during the Summit meeting.

At the multilateral level, the BRICS grouping is expected to discuss the international situation in the economic, financial, political and security domain. Obviously Libya is an important issue for all the BRICS countries. Except for South Africa that voted in favour of the UN Security Council Resolution 1973, the other four countries - India, China, Brazil and Russia - had abstained from voting sending vague and ambiguous signals to Libya and the rest of the international community. However, it should be noted that the Libya vote was not the result of any collective decision taken by the BRICS. It was driven primarily by each country's individual foreign policy orientations than a common BRICS position. While China has justified its abstention by arguing that it does not interfere in another country's internal affairs, the Indian position has not been very clear. Some reports have argued that the open-ended nature of the Allied action is what got New Delhi worried. However, India's stand on the issue of use of military power against civilian population is contradictory. India stands aside while another government is using military power against unarmed civilians, even though India observes strict limitation on the use of military force in domestic rebellions. This contradiction will create problems to its standing in the coming years on the issue of UN's R2P (Responsibility to Protect) principle and willingness to take on greater responsibility in global affairs commensurate with its growing stature.

What does BRICS really mean? The fact that Goldman Sachs identified Brazil, Russia, India and China as the fastest growing economies and coined the term BRIC does not mean anything and cannot become effective glue to stitch the group together as a cohesive unit. The grouping has by and large remained a forum that has debated or taken positions on what may be termed as "soft" issues such as climate change, trade issues and so on. The lack of strategic content in the grouping has impeded the growth and development of BRICS as a forum that can effect significant changes in global politics.

Even on the climate change issue, there has been no common position. Russia's stance on climate change has been significantly different from that of India and China's. Despite the fact that China has become the largest emitter of green house gas, India has found it convenient to go under the Beijing shadow although India has taken important steps to curb green house gas emissions, thereby compromising India's position in the climate change debate. However, India and China coming together and taking common positions has often been cited as major breakthroughs in India-China relations.

How far is this claim valid? It can be argued that while the two countries may have cooperated at the multilateral fora, India-China bilateral relations have also witnessed worsening of the ties partly because of China's less than supportive role at the multilateral fora when it came to strategic issues affecting India (China's role at the NSG and its efforts to sabotage an ADB loan for India are examples).

From the Chinese side, it supports India when they perceive a potential benefit in improving ties, which by and large have remained in the economic arena or improving its own image as it holds major events. The two recent instances have been when China issued regular stamped visas to one singer who was travelling to China for performing at the closing ceremony of the Asian Games; and when four journalists hailing from J&K travelling with PM for the BRICS Summit, because they did not want the visa issue to become a dampener on either of the two occasions held by China on its soil.

For Beijing, the West (including the US and Europe) is no more the market for their products. Asia is the future market and in Asia, India provides the largest market for the Chinese products and services. This explains the Chinese rationale in emphasising economics as the biggest agenda in the bilateral ties (evident during Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao's visit to India with a 400-member economic delegation).

India is all for strengthening ties with China, including in the economic arena. The bilateral trade had touched nearly $62 bn in 2010 and the two countries are expected to take this to $100 bn by 2015, which is not an unrealistic target. However, India has to address a few issues even in this area, which is otherwise booming. While the trade touched $62 billion, China's exports had gone beyond $40 bn, further increasing the trade imbalance between the two. Another issue for India has been the lack of access to the Chinese markets for Indian products particularly in three sectors - agriculture, IT and pharmaceuticals.

Lastly, what is that India achieves through BRIC/S that it cannot or has not achieved through bilateral means?

Global governance is one issue through which India-China relations may be tested. Is China willing to live with an India that is more assertive and influential in Asian and global affairs? China has so far not exhibited such support as it deals with India. Its changing policy on Jammu & Kashmir (manifested through the issuance of stapled visas; circulation of internal documents in China indicating the deletion of 1500 square kilometres from LAC on the Ladakh sector) questioning the territorial integrity of India; its South Asia policy aimed at circumscribing India's manoeuvrability even within South Asia (China-Pakistan defence and nuclear weapons collaboration, China-Nepal, -Sri Lanka defence ties, and more recently utilising economic aid as an effective tool in furthering the Chinese interests are few examples) are some of the underlying issues that trouble India-China relations.

Three of the four BRIC countries are active and credible nuclear and space powers, yet the group has not managed to initiate a dialogue on non-proliferation or outer space issues. The lack of strategic depth and mutual trust among these countries come as major impediments in making this bloc a strategic one - one with teeth that can challenge the current policies on these issues or one that can institute a new mechanism to avert the dangers of proliferation or weaponization of outer space.

Each of the five BRICS countries has their own strengths in the S&T arena. While this area should have been an ideal candidate for strengthening cooperation among these five countries, the group has not been able to exploit this strength for a variety of reasons.

Therefore, India has to be realistic enough to understand that heightened engagement between India and China in BRICS or any other multilateral fora has serious limitations - limitations imposed by the underlying Chinese objective of keeping India bogged down in South Asia as a regional power.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011


US-based National Space Society has issued a Press Release about my article on space-based solar power that appeared on the ORF website.

The release read: Dr. Rajeswari Pillai Rajagopalan, a Senior Fellow at India's Institute of Security Studies, and Senior Fellow at India's Observer Research Foundation, is urging the United States and India to jointly develop an energy alternative that can take us beyond nuclear technology. Events like the recent earthquake in Japan are causing many to rethink traditional energy sources. The energy alternative suggested is Space Solar Power (SSP). In the online publication "Analysis" of the Indian Observer Research Foundation, Dr. Rajagopalan writes, "With the earthquake and the subsequent tsunami that hit Japan on March 11, isn’t it time for India and the US to make serious commitments to Space-Based Solar Power?"

For the full text of the release, continue reading.

Dr. Rajagopalan points out that the concept of space solar power is 40 years old. Much of its technology has been in use for close to sixty years. But space solar power has never been seriously pursued as a major energy option, even though there are supporters of space solar power in Japan, Russia, the European Union, and most of the world's leading nations.

The National Space Society (NSS) has recently teamed with a former president of India, Dr. A.P.J. Kalam, in the Kalam-NSS Energy Initiative, to drive home the potential of what Dr. Kalam calls "energy harvested in space." Kalam is famous for his accomplishments in the aerospace field. He is known as the "Missile Man of India" and currently serves as Chancellor of the Indian Institute of Space Science and Technology. Dr. Rajagopalan quotes Dr. Kalam: "By 2050, even if we use every available energy resource we have, clean and dirty, conventional and alternative, solar, wind, geothermal, nuclear, coal, oil, and gas, the world will fall short of the energy we need by 66%."

Space solar power involves placing large arrays of lightweight solar panels in high Earth orbit, where sunlight is 36 percent stronger than on Earth. Any equipment placed there is totally immune to earthquakes, floods, volcanoes, tsunamis, hurricanes, tornadoes, fires, local wars, rust, corrosion, hail, and other forms of destruction occurring on the ground. The solar power gathered by the arrays is beamed down to a receiver on the ground. Clean electrical energy would be efficiently and safely delivered night and day, 7 days a week. Space solar power could provide a large alternate supply of carbon-free electrical power to the whole Earth. For details see Dr. Rajagopalan's article.

Most importantly, the prestigious International Academy of Astronautics is expected to complete a study of SSP within weeks, which may set the stage for the first substantial steps towards making SSP a reality. The National Space Society plans to hold a press conference at the National Space Club in Washington DC concerning the study when it is released. NSS also plans to hold a SSP symposium as part of its annual convention, the International Space Development Conference, in Huntsville, Alabama, May 18-22, 2011.

Dr. Rajagopalan’s article can be found at:
A video of the November 4, 2011 NSS press conference announcing the Kalam-NSS Energy Initiative is available at:
Information on Space Solar Power is at:

Media contact:
Gary Barnhard
Phone: (202) 429-1600

About National Space Society

The National Space Society (NSS) is an independent, grassroots organization dedicated to the creation of a spacefaring civilization. Founded in 1974, NSS is widely acknowledged as the preeminent citizen's voice on space. NSS counts thousands of members and more than 50 chapters in the United States and around the world. The society also publishes Ad Astra magazine, an award-winning periodical chronicling the most important developments in space. For more information about NSS, visit

Monday, April 4, 2011

India, CD and Space Security

Here's the summary of my recent paper presentation on "India, Conference on Disarmament and Space Security" at the IDSA-MEA Conference on Space and International Security (March 30-31, 2011).

India has been active at the multilateral fora on disarmament as well as on narrower issues such as the prevention of weaponisation of outer space. Its active involvement in negotiations of treaties such as the Outer Space Treaty (OST) is testimony of its commitment to limiting the use of space for peaceful purposes. India, however, has been less than satisfied with the role of major powers in reaching a consensus on these critical issues and there is now a momentum toward weaponisation of outer space, which have serious implications for India’s security.

My paper looked at India’s experience at the Conference on Disarmament (CD) in general and its views on PAROS (Prevention of An Arms Race in Outer Space) in particular. Divided into three sections – the first section of the paper looked at India’s general experience within the CD on a number of treaties; the second section looked at India’s growing challenges in the arena of space and the final section looks at developments relating to OST and PAROS and how these can tackle the challenges in space. In conclusion, the paper analyses the status and ability of arms control regimes to tackle the current challenges. Because this is a major crisis facing the multilateral regime, be it about the fissile materials or outer space weaponization. The paper finally made a few recommendations to improve the functioning of the CD as well as on the need for India to become proactive in shaping the regime that it may have to be part of.

If anyone is interested, I can send the full paper.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Chinese Defence White Paper: An Initial Assessment

Here's the link to an article of mine published by ORF on the just released Chinese Defence White Paper.

China's defence White Paper, titled China's National Defense in 2010, the seventh in the series, was published on March 31, 2011. Does the White Paper bring out anything new? The answer may be a "No" given that it has continued reiterating the same positions on all of these issues. Because of criticism of lack of transparency on security issues, China has decided to come out with these white papers but unfortunately it sheds no new light on the PLA, its objectives or the military modernization. While it remains an important CBM measure, the suspicions about the long term intentions of Beijing can be hardly wished away with the publication of these white papers. The White Paper is essentially what the Chinese want the world to believe what they are doing. Therefore, if China is serious about reducing the regional suspicion about its rise, it has to do something more meaningful.

Underlying the fact that the momentum for economic globalization and multi-polar world are irreversible, the White Paper identifies a few challenges as it outlines its security environment. The "intermittent tension" on the Korean Peninsula and the unraveling security scenario in Afghanistan are seen as major concerns, and the White Paper argues that the Asia-Pacific security has become "more intricate and volatile." Occasional disputes and flare-ups over undemarcated territorial issues and maritime rights have been mentioned as issues contributing to the volatile situation in the Asia-Pacific though thereis no mention of the recent incidents at sea, fuelled by Chinese naval actions.2 The presence of external powers in China's extended neighbourhood - the US and its strengthened regional partnerships -is an issue for Beijing. However, China claims that it is still in "the period of important strategic opportunities for its development," and therefore the idea of cooperating with major traditional powers and new emerging powers, along with good neighbourly relationship, is seen as something Beijing must continue with for mutual benefits. While acknowledging relations with the United States as significant and as a stabilizing tool, Beijing does not mince its words in criticizing Washington for its alliance-kind of relationship, particularly the military sales to the region.

Describing its national defense policy as purely defensive, the White Paper sets out four critical tasks for its armed forces: safeguarding national sovereignty, security and interests of national development; maintaining social harmony and stability; accelerating the modernization of national defense and the armed forces; and maintaining world peace and stability. It further details its strategy as adhering to "the principles of independence and self-defense by the whole nation" and is essentially for maintaining the territorial integrity of its land border, territorial sea and air defenses. China has also begun to emphasize on MOOTW (Military Operations Other Than War), again a theme that began with the last defense White Paper. Beijing argues that there is an increased role for its armed forces on a range of missions, from disaster management missions to riot control to search and rescue operations given the penetrating nature of non-traditional security threats faced by Asia today.

On the modernization of national defense capabilities, the White Paper argues that the PLA is modernizing its forces and equipment "with mechanization as the foundation and informationization as the driving force, while making extensive use of its achievements in information technology, and stepping up the composite and integrated development of mechanization and informationization." Talking of PLA modernization, it emphasizes shifting from a "manpower-intensive to a technology-intensive model." The document mentions the formation of new types of combat forces,without divulging much detail. There is also the modernization of the artillery forces - with the introduction of new types of radar, command information systems, and medium- and high-altitude ground-to-air missiles- for undertaking important military maneuvers - "to carry out precision operations with integrated reconnaissance, control, strike and assessment capabilities." In addition, the PLA Army aviation wing has made significant changes to its role and function - moving away from being a support arm to being a main-battle assault force. Air power has been given a lot of emphasis evident from the upgradation undertaken in its armed helicopters, transport and service helicopters, thereby making marked differences in its ability to move and support infantry forces, force projection as well as extending support role in various missions.

There has been marked progress on the naval front as well. Introduction of new submarines, frigates, aircraft and large support vessels in support of China's offshore defense strategy or "Far Sea Defense Strategy" as stated by Rear Adm. Zhang Huachen, deputy commander of the East Sea Fleet in April last year.3 Accordingly, PLA Navy plans construction of new support bases in order to strengthen the shore-based support system while complementing the deployment of forces and development of weaponry and equipment. This suggests the future intentions of the Navy to project power beyond the immediate neighbourhood.

However, the most significant pronouncement has been regarding the role of the PLA Air Force - to meet "the strategic requirements of conducting both offensive and defensive operations." The Air Force is projected to have important roles in the coming years that emphasizes "air strikes, air and missile defense, and strategic projection," while improving its "leadership and command system for an informationized, networked base support system."Similarly, it has been training on various scenarios involving extensive electromagnetic environment, recognizing the importance of these in future warfare scenarios. Similarly, there has been major push for modernizing its Second Artillery Force with an objective of sharpening their capabilities for "rapid reaction, penetration, precision strike, damage infliction, protection, and survivability, while steadily enhancing its capabilities in strategic deterrence and defensive operations."

A great deal of emphasis has been placed on the need to accelerate the development of new and high-tech weaponry and equipment for undertaking the above-mentioned missions and goals. Accordingly, it has strengthened "the retrofitting and management of existing equipment, and promoting the composite development of mechanized and informationized weaponry and equipment."

Additionally, the White Paper discusses defence expenditure and bilateral and multilateral cooperation. Such cooperation involves a range of issues from joint military exercises and training to strengthening cooperation as a Confidence Building Measure (CBM). Confidence building measures are also discussed for maintaining social stability and non-proliferation and arms control issues.

Space Based Solar Power: Time to Put it on the New US-India S&T Endowment Fund?

Here's the link to an article of mine on Space-Based Solar Power (SBSP) published by ORF. The article looks at the prospect of making SBSP a real and viable option for India.

With the earthquake and the subsequent tsunami that hit Japan on March 11, isn’t it time for India and the US to make serious commitments to Space-Based Solar Power (SBSP)? Japanese crisis has triggered worldwide re-thinking on the feasibility of pursuing nuclear energy to meet growing global energy demands. This has kick-started a debate also in India not only on the safety of nuclear plants but also on other energy options. It is time that India and the United States and the countries around the world looked at an often-overlooked option: SBSP.

The idea of harnessing SBSP as an option originated in the United States some 40 years ago. But it has not been pursued with vigour for a variety of reasons, including possibly the influence of nuclear lobbyists. In simple terms, SBSP is described thus by Lt. Col. Peter Garretson of the US Air Force: "In this concept, very large satellites, the largest ever constructed, made up of kilometers of solar cells, would collect the Sun’s energy where there is no night, and convert it to radio-waves to be beamed to special receiving antenna farms on the ground (called rectennas) about the size of a small airport. The energy is sent in the form of a low energy beam at about 1/6th the intensity of normal sunlight that falls on earth. But because it is a low-energy, non-ionizing wavelength, it is not as dangerous as sunlight with its high energy ultraviolet rays. At the rectenna, the energy is reconverted and sent via the existing electrical grid. Such satellites would necessitate a fleet of re-useable space planes, and as a consequence of economies of scale, reduce the cost of space access a hundred fold, enabling many other applications."2 It is estimated that one kilometre-wide band of geo-synchronous earth bit can produce solar flux to match as much as the total amount of energy produced from all the different recoverable oil reserves on Earth.

The idea was promoted by none other than Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam first at the Aeronautical Society of India (AeSI) and later again at a press conference in Washington DC last year. The initiative is now titled as the Kalam-NSS (National Space Society) Energy Initiative. The Kalam-NSS initiative is an India-US partnership taken up by individuals with long-term expertise in the space realm. Some of the key people involved are, in addition to Dr. Kalam, Mark Hopkins, CEO of the US-based National Space Society and John Mankins, President of the Space Power Association and a veteran of NASA. On the Indian side, there seems to be some official involvement due to the involvement of Dr. T.K. Alex, who is the Director of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) Satellite Centre, Bangalore and leader of the Chandrayan-I project.

Speaking in New Delhi in November last year, Dr. Kalam said that "by 2050, even if we use every available energy resource we have, clean and dirty, conventional and alternative, solar, wind, geothermal, nuclear, coal, oil, and gas, the world will fall short of the energy we need by 66%. There is an answer. An answer for both the developed and developing countries. This is a solar energy source that is close to infinite, an energy source that produces no carbon emissions, an energy source that can reach the most distant villages of the world, and an energy source that can turn countries into net energy exporter."3 According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), the worldwide demand for primary energy increases by 55 per cent between 2005 and 2030 - 1.8 per cent hike per year on average; and for India, the demand is expected to more than double by 2030, growing at 3.6 per cent rate per year.4

With energy demand growing rapidly, the SBSP option offers huge opportunities. Such an option will also be reportedly a cleaner energy option. This option would also significantly augment India’s capabilities in the space domain, which will have far-reaching positive spin-offs in the ever-changing security environment in Asia. This will bring the much-desired focus on the question of technology transfer between India and the US, Japan and Israel.

India has looked at this option for quite sometime. In 1987, the first bit of work was undertaken looking at advanced space transportation system design concepts for cost-effective space solar power. Recently, ISRO is reported to have done some exercise looking at the feasibility of this option and examined three specific configurations. Thereafter, ISRO is believed to have welcomed an International Preliminary Feasibility Study.Unlike terrestrial solar and wind power plants, SBSP is available throughout the year, in huge quantities. It can also reportedly work irrespective of conditions that are a problem for other alternative energy sources such as cloud cover, availability of sunlight, or wind speed.

What has prevented the SBSP from becoming a real option? Is it the enormous cost involved in developing the option or is it an option that never got the popular attention due to the multiplicity of departments involved? Proponents argue that the cost of SBSP should not be compared to the direct costs involved. The cost-benefit analysis needs to be done on a different scale, including the direct and indirect cost of global warming and climate change. Otherwise, the costs of developing this technology may seem exorbitant.

What are the options to meet this cost? Are the Indian and American governments and private sectors willing to make significant investments on the R&D of this technology? The US-India Agreement to establish an S&T Board and an Endowment to carry out research (July 20, 2009) appears to be an ideal basis for new research and development on SBSP. SBSP seems like an ideal candidate because this fund seeks to finance projects on a broad spectrum of issues of mutual benefit such as biotechnology, health and infectious diseases, advanced materials and nanotechnology science, clean energy technologies, climate science, basic space and atmospheric and earth science among others. The US side of funding for the Endowment is reported to come from the US S&T "Rupee Funds" established in the 1980s to encourage and fund bilateral S&T projects.5 However, for the SBSP per se, there appears to be interest among the private sector companies like Boeing, Lockheed Martin, and Northrop Grumman and on the Indian side, Tatas have shown interest in exploring this option.

While this can potentially be an excellent case for public-private partnership, the initiative has to come from the government. India’s foray into space and its space policies have had strong civilian and developmental roots and accordingly the government needs to place the SBSP within its overall national space policy. India’s decision to pursue SBSP will have multiple impact -clean energy, clean environment, advancement in the space arena with technology transfer as a given between India, US and Japan.

2Peter A Garretson, "Power the Final Frontier: Could Satellites in Orbit be a Source of Energy for the Future? It’s Possible," Satkal Times, May 22, 2009. For a detailed study, see Peter A Garretson, "Sky’s No Limit: Space Based Solar Power, the Next Major Step in the Indo-US Strategic Partnership?," IDSA Occasional Paper No. 9, (Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses, New Delhi, August 2010), p. 17.

3Announcement of the Kalam-NSS Energy Initiative, The NSS Conference Announcement, November 05, 2010, available at

4International Energy Agency, World Energy Outlook 2007: China and India Insights, International Energy Agency, Paris, 2007, p. 42 and 46.

5Press Information Bureau, "US-India to Establish a Bi-National Science and Technology Endowment Fund and Joint Commission," India PR Wire, March 3, 2006.