Defence Industry

Slice of Outer Space for the Indian Military
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Issue Vol. 30.1 Jan-Mar 2015 | Date : 11 Nov , 2015

Space Leap by Asian Powers

India and China commenced their respective journeys into space piggy back on the Soviet Union about six decades ago. But within a decade, China broke off from the Soviets and commenced her solo journey into space. China’s resolve and intent were clear and publicly stated by Mao,“…to make China an equal with the superpowers with the objective of placing a satellite in orbit by 1959 to celebrate the tenth anniversary of the founding of the PRC.”26 China trusted and placed the space program under People’s Liberation Army with military intent. China achieved what it stated and is a space power to reckon with today.

India, on the other hand, made a modest beginning under civilian establishment with no military intent. India took baby steps and made modest gains and today is a space power in her own right. The recent success of Mars Orbital Mission (MOM) bears testimony to this. While China leapt to the ‘Big Five’ league of the world in 1971 with veto power within two decades. India is still struggling to get a seat in the UNSC after nearly seven decades. China’s spectacular space and cyber march is driven by the military and has caused serious concern to the USA which fears a possible second “Pearl Harbour”.27

The world only respects the power of the gun…

There is one Asian giant that trusts its military and makes a brilliant leap of faith within two decades to reach its destination of being among the Big Five and continues to take progressive strides. The other Asian hopeful has not put trust in its military and is ambling, getting needled by pygmies and struggling to find its way even after nearly seven decades to reach anywhere near the Big Five.

Outer and Inner Space for Indian Military

The Scientific Adviser to the Defence Minister had rued the fact that the tremendous strides made by India in space exploration have not gone to fill the gap in India’s capability to create space assets designed to equip military to meet the challenges of the future.28 The ISRO opposed military applications for its dual-use projects such as the SLV-3.29 Even during the Kargil Conflict, the Research and Analysis Wing too, proved hostile to requests for border-area surveillance and generally did not support the military.30 As a knee-jerk reaction to the Mumbai terrorist attacks in December 2008, ISRO launched the RISAT 2, which it purchased off the shelf from Israel.31 The military has not got a satellite to shorten its “sensor-to-shooter loop” – the ability to swiftly detect and tackle a threat.32

GSAT-7, the multi-band communication satellite named Rukmini is the first satellite launched by ISRO in August 2013 that provides services to the Indian defence forces with the main user being the Indian Navy.33 The Integrated Space Cell is the nodal agency within the Government of India which oversees the security of its space-based military and civilian hardware systems. It is jointly operated by the military and ISRO. The functions of this cell appear more like Multi Agency Centre of merely information sharing rather than strategising, planning and carrying out executive functions.34

Aspiring to play a larger role and to become a global power, China began its space exploration under the People’s Liberation Army…

Of course, Indian industries continue to support the Indian space program by way of the supply of components and systems. In sharp contrast, in the US and West Europe, private industrial outfits have built up a technological and manufacturing base resurgent enough to supply both the satellites and launch vehicles in a ready-to-use condition. It will be wise for India too to entrust the military with the resources, expertise, talent and infrastructure available in the country-cutting across the Private-Public sector barriers for realising the space-based assets for the exclusive use of defence forces on a fast track without bureaucratic impediments.

The Indian military continues to be used to launch operations without being equipped as a modern war-winning force. Despite the availability of national resources, skills and will both in public and private sector, the nexus with vested interests has not allowed the domestic industry to build up modern military weapon systems. The decision making by the vested interests in matters military, without taking the latter in the decision making loop, has been baffling. Examples of such bewildering defeatist political decisions in the India-China War of 1962 35 & 36, Indo-Pak War, 1965,37 Liberation of Bangladesh in 1971,38 IPKF operations in Sri Lanka, 198739 and the Kargil Conflict 199940 & 41 are illustrative and instructive.

One of the consequences of such political ham-handedness, is that the Indian military, even when dealt a winning hand, simply does not trust the Indian government (vested interests) and its elected rulers to do right by them and the country.42 Such apparently inexplicable acts of the politico-bureaucratic nexus keeping the military seriously unprepared may lie in their misconceived perceptions. Firstly, that the Indian military under the British Raj did not take violent actions to advance the cause of the Indian non-violent freedom struggle. Secondly, that a strong Indian military may overthrow a democratically elected government. Both these perceptions are ill-founded and farcical.

Under lofty ideals of guiding the world to peaceful co-existence, India began space exploration with no military content or intent…

Why then has the military, subordinate to the civilian government, been systematically subjugated to the point of being made subservient? Military leaders have been denigrated to favour and patronage seekers of the politico-bureaucratic nexus. Even the war-disabled ex-servicemen have also not been spared. India would perhaps be the only country which does not have even one serving or retired soldier in the Department of Ex-Servicemen Welfare in its Ministry of Defence. This department has distinguished itself in denying the rightful dues and denigrating the war disabled veterans of the military.43

Why is India the only country in the world which implicitly distrusts its own private sector while explicitly trusting foreign private players for its defence needs? Why have the defence R&D and public sector units in India repeatedly fail to produce military equipment of current technology? China, which was on the radar of the top buyers, has migrated to among the top five weapons suppliers. India, on the other hand, is one of the top buyers in the arms bazaar. The Ministry of Defence is the decision making authority for all major defence purchases.44 A scrutiny of a few of the defence purchases scams from Independence till date – the Jeep scandal of 1948 to VVIP Choppers scam in 2013, may provide some insight into systemic plan of the politico-bureaucratic nexus of keeping the military toothless and the defence production plagued.45, 46, 47, 48, 49 & 50

The opportunity for scams and the subjugation of national interest is embedded in politics. In his book, “Unknown Facets of Rajiv Gandhi, Jyoti Basu and Indrajit Gupta”, released in November 2013, former CBI Director Dr A.P Mukherjee wrote that Rajiv Gandhi wanted commission paid by defence suppliers to be used exclusively for the purpose of meeting expenses of running the Congress party.51

The business model of politics in India benefitting from non-transparent financing demands discretionary power be manipulated or at least converted into an opportunity to seek and secure rent to sustain power.52 The carefully crafted, lengthy and multi-layered Defence Procurement Procedure provides such opportunities to the nexus.53 The delay or wrong doings are conveniently blamed on the beleaguered military. For the politician or bureaucrat, obliging investigating agency conveniently stretches the investigations54 till the accused or main witnesses die a natural death and the case is closed.55 Military men, if implicated, are instantly made sacrificial goat through military system of quick dispensation of justice or injustice.56

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The world only respects the power of the gun. When a journalist is beheaded, the USA launches outright attack against the ISIS, the rest of the world takes notice. When an Indian soldier is beheaded by the Pakistan Army, there is no befitting punishing response by India, and the world takes notice. 9/11 happens in USA, war against terror is declared and the perpetrator is culled out and killed on foreign soil through military action, the world takes notice. Attacks on Akshardham and the Parliament, and 26/11 happen, India does not fire even one bullet, the world takes notice. Either India as a nation has lost consciousness or vested interests have cunningly lulled the nation into deep slumber and are filling their own coffers on foreign shores.

In response to India’s Forward Policy and incursions in 1962, Mao Zedong, who had prepared his military as a war winning force, stated: “Rather than being constantly accused of aggression, it’s better to show the world what really happens when China indeed moves its muscles.”57 It is time that the leadership in India learnt a lesson from history and regained its national pride. It is time to build the muscle of the Indian military as a modern war-winning force and surge ahead to become a permanent member of United Nations Security Council or else history will permanently relegate India to a status among the losers.



2. Space exploration, 16 September 2014, Retrived from,

3. Militarisation of space, 10 September 2014, Retrieved from,

4. China National Space Administration, 08 September 2014,Retrieved from,

5. Chinese space program , Retrieved from,

6. ISRO, 09 September 2014, Retrieved from,

7. Satellite Communications for the Warfighter, 23 September 2014, Retrieved from,


9. ibid



12. Ibid

13. Ibid



16. Chris Cole and Jim Wright, What are drones, January 2010,

17. Philip Dorling, 21 July 2013, Retrieved from,

18. ALISSA J. RUBIN, TIM ARANGO and HELENE COOPER, AUG. 8, 2014, Retrieved from,

19. 15 October 2014. Retrieved from,

20. Admiral Joshi says vested interests have stalled reforms in higher defence management.

21. Admiral DK Joshi tells NDTV that the armed forces have been saddled with a dysfunctional and an inefficient business model. 15 October 2014, Retrieved from,


23. Ibid.

24. Hui Zhang, 2005, Retrieved from,

25. New Chinese Threats to U.S. Space Systems Worry Officials , Yasmin Tadjdeh July 2014, USSpaceSystemsWorryOfficials.aspx


27. Toshiki Yazawa, US fears Pearl Harbour in space, 02 June 2014, Retrieved from,

28. Why India should Deploy Dedicated Defence Satellites?, 21 September 2013, Retrieved from,

29. ISRO, eventually however, loaned scientists to DRDO for missile programme.

13 September 2013, Retrieved from,

30. Praveen Swami, The bungle in Kargil, Retrieved from,

31. Debajit Sarkar ,Space Programs, Dec 20, 2011, Retrieved from,

32. Rajat Pandit, India’s first military satellite will help keep tabs on Indian Ocean region, Aug 28, 2013,

33. Retrieved from,

34. MAC is the nodal body at the Centre for sharing intelligence inputs. Retrieved from,

35. With more military-minded man than Nehru, India would have been ready for a counter-attack from China. Retrieved from,

36. Inder Malhotra , October 9, 2014,

37. Lal Bahadur Shastri returned to Pakistan the Haji Pir .Bharat Karnad, October 12, 2014, Retrieved from,

38. Indira Gandhi, instead of imposing a victor’s peace, gave in. Bharat Karnad. Op Cit.

39. The Indian intelligence agencies failed to provide accurate information. Retrieved from,

40. June 17-27 Brajesh Mishra gives Vajpayee’s letter to Clinton aide. US urges Sharif to retreat. Soldier’s hour, 26 July 1999, Retrieved from,

41. Chandra Shekhar stripped the US-authored end of the Kargil War of its triumphalist raiment. Praveen Swami, Retrieved from,

42. Bharat Karnad. Op Cit.

43. Antony is exceedingly misguided by lower-level functionaries of the Department of Ex-Servicemen Welfare. Thus denying grant of benefits to disabled soldiers, all approved by him on file,” says Major Navdeep Singh. Sandeep Unnithan, 07 March, 2014,

44. Forces are not directly involved in the procurement. India’s major defence scams, 15 February 2013, Retrieved from,–20224.html.

45. India’s gigantic but creaky military-industrial complex has been unable to produce new hardware, leaving the services importing 60 per cent of their military needs from abroad. Sandeep Unnithan, 07 March, 2014,

46. In 2007, a committee led by P Rama Rao on the working of DRDO made 28 shocking recommendations which were not shared even with the Parliamentary Standing Committee. Shankkar Aiyar, 17 February 2013, Retrieved from,

47. Jeeps scam, 1948: VK Krishna Menon was embroiled in the controversy became India’s defence minister. The case was closed in 1955. Retrieved from,

48. Westland chopper scam. Rajiv Gandhi forced Pawan Hans to buy 21 helicopters and were eventually discarded as junk. Retrieved from,

49. Bofors scam. Rajiv Gandhi was personally implicated in the scandal in the investigations. Retrieved from,

50. In 1981, the government ordered four HDW submarines from Germany at Rs 465 crore on the basis of a commission of 7 per cent paid. Shankkar Aiyar, Op Cit.

51. Retrieved from,

52. Shankkar Aiyar, Op Cit.

53. Defence Procurement Procedure (DPP) has extreme slow-moving processes and bribes are paid essentially to circumvent the tedious procedures. Prakash Nandal, 13 March 2014, Retrieved from,

54. Many of the guilty are yet to be punished, either on account of insufficient evidence or lack of political will or both. Retrieved from,

55. While the Bofors case was being investigated, Rajiv Gandhi was assassinated on 21 May 1991. In 2001, Win Chadha and S.K. Bhatnagar died. Bofors Scandal,

56. On March 15, 2001 within two days of Operation Westend being made public – the army set up a Court of Inquiry and on May 31 recommending action against the guilty. Retrieved from,

57. Retrieved from,

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About the Author

Maj Gen AK Chadha

former head of Signal Intelligence Directorate in Defence Intelligence Agency.

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One thought on “Slice of Outer Space for the Indian Military

  1. good eveining sir. i am cdr mukesh tayal from indian navy currently doing staff college at dssc. very nice article sir. in fact we recently had a talk by DIA on related subjects. sir one query. does any country have capability for keeping sea under surveillance. what i mean is that we will not always have enough number of aircraft for surveillance of indian ocean, which is vast. future is that we use satellites for surveillance of vast areas of ocean. but unlike land areas which are stationary points, sea surveillance means capability to track mobile objects.
    can u throw some light on this sir. regards

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