India has solidified its space cooperation relationships in Southeast Asia, and called for rules-based order throughout the Indian Ocean Region (IOR) – to include space – during visits to Indonesia, Singapore, and Malaysia by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi this past week.
Speaking at the annual international security conference sponsored by the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS), the Shangri-La Dialogue, in Singapore on 1 June 2018, Prime Minister Modi said, “We believe that our common prosperity and security require us to evolve, through dialogue, a common rules-based order for the region. And, it must equally apply to all individually as well as to the global commons.”
Prime Minister Modi then added that, “We will promote a democratic and rules-based international order, in which all nations, small and large, thrive as equal and sovereign We will work with others to keep our seas, space and airways free and open; our nations secure from terrorism; and our cyber space free from disruption and conflict.”
These comments further promote the concept of a “free and open” Indo-Pacific region that is being actively advocated for by Australian, Japanese, U.S., and Indian leaders and officials, and is seen as an evolving counter to what many perceive to be an assertive approach by China to seek strategic advantage in the region. While much attention is paid to the maritime and geoeconomic aspects of this competition, it also extends to space as the Indian Prime Minister intimated.
The comments by Prime Minister Modi came after he had made official visits to Indonesia and Singapore, where space cooperation emerged as significant aspect of India’s bilateral relations with the two Southeast Asian countries.
On 31 May 2018 in Indonesia, the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) and the National Institute of Aeronautics and Space of the Republic of Indonesia (LAPAN) signed a Framework Agreement on cooperation in space science, space exploration, space technology, satellite environmental monitoring, remote sensing, and launch services for LAPAN-built satellites.
Additionally, the Framework Agreement extends India’s use of the Integrated Ground Station for telemetry, tracking, and satellite control located at Biak in West Papua in Indonesia. Further, a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signed between the Indian Ministry of Science, Technology, and Earth Sciences and the Indonesian Ministry for Research Technology and Higher Education allows for the exchange of geospatial data between the two countries.
The Framework Agreement builds on a MoU signed by ISRO and LAPAN in 2002.
In Singapore, Prime Minister Modi visited the Nanyang Technological University (NTU), where he signed six MoU’s to include one that links NTU with the Indian Institute of Space Science and Technology (IIST) to cooperate on space science and technology, research collaboration and exchanges, and to jointly build satellites together.
Also during Prime Minister Modi’s visit to Singapore, the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) and the Singapore Space Technology Association (SSTA) signed a MoU for commercial collaboration in the space sector and the development of space industry in both countries.