How ‘Antyodaya’ And ‘Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam’ Are Driving India's Space20 Agenda

How ‘Antyodaya’ And ‘Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam’ Are Driving India's Space20 Agenda

by Subba Rao Pavuluri And Chaitanya Giri - Saturday, February 11, 2023 01:36 PM IST
How ‘Antyodaya’ And ‘Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam’ Are Driving India's Space20 Agenda The G20 logo unveiled by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
  • The fourth Space20 under India’s presidency would promote Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam.

India’s G-20 presidency is taking place at a crucial time when the global economy is facing significant turbulence, geopolitical polycrisis and the aftershocks of the ongoing global Covid-19 pandemic.

In a turbulence-hit world, India’s G-20 agenda optimistically promotes its innate philosophy of ‘Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam’.

The Space Economy Leader’s Meeting, or the Space20, is a new initiative within the G-20 architecture.

First proposed by the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA), Space20 was initiated during Saudi Arabia’s G20 presidency in 2020.

In Space20, the heads of space agencies of G-20 member countries discuss space affairs.

They are expected to chart the growth of the global space economy.

It is understood that the fourth Space20 under India’s presidency would promote Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam.

India’s space programme, since its inception, was designed to achieve socio-economic goals.

Having eventually developed capacities to accomplish these goals, a government-led effort, India only recently began commercialising its space technologies and services.

Such commercialisation enables multilateral trade of goods and services, which is the prime driver of the space economy.

With India at the helm of the Space20, the country sees a unique opportunity for member nations to collaborate and harness the power of space applications to tackle major global concerns, such as food and water security, public health, climate change impacts, emissions mapping, digital and financial inclusions, disaster vulnerabilities, while also contributing to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of the United Nations.

Even though the Space20 members hold significant sway regarding the global space economy, the user base and users of space applications must leave no country behind.

India stands in a very advantageous position compared to its more advanced Space20 peers in offering more cost-effective alternative space solutions for non-space-faring countries.

But India, thanks to the Make in India, Make for World programme, the production-linked incentive schemes, and vibrant innovation potential, the largest in the world, is in a better position to cost-effectively manufacture satellites, smaller launch vehicles, payloads, sub-systems and electronics.

Furthermore, the vital information technology sector gives India an unparalleled advantage in devising cost-effective, easy-to-deploy downstream applications with governments, businesses and customers.

To bridge this gap, India has a huge opportunity to take a leading role in promoting economic mechanisms that support the development of space competence in developing countries of G-20 and beyond and offer support as needed.

Indian politics and sociology believe in and practice ‘Antyodaya’ — the welfare of the weakest sections of society.

Combined with the apt implementation of a knowledge base, Antyodaya has been instrumental in uplifting millions from poverty and bringing them to the middle class.

The space applications generated by ISRO (Indian Space Research Organisation) have played an essential role in poverty alleviation.

Now, with the space reforms, the government has shared the responsibility of poverty alleviation with the private space sector.

That being so, India has scientific and social rationale to promote ‘Antyodaya’ in the Space20 agenda-setting.

India’s Space20 agenda must therefore emphasise providing access to cost-effective and easily deployable space services across nations and improving socio-econo-environmental indicators.

Commercial space players can efficiently deliver last-mile tracking and last-mile connectivity through remote sensing, positioning-navigating-timing (PNT) systems, and telecom networks.

For instance, the recent volcanic explosion in Tonga disrupted the telecom connectivity on the island, which slowed assistance.

In such disaster scenarios, commercial remote sensing, PNT, and telecom networks can be highly crucial in providing humanitarian aid and on the road to recovery.

Space-based Antyodaya also fits well with India’s leadership in the Coalition of Disaster Resilient Infrastructure.

Apart from disaster resilience, New Delhi can also aim to reduce the digital divide as an agenda for connecting societies and offering services to the back of the beyond.

India’s Space20 agenda need not mimic the jargon led by other nations earlier. Its unique position as a bridge between the global north and global south gives it great flexibility to be unique, and it should strive to be distinctive.

Subba Rao Pavuluri is the president of Satcom Industry Association-India; Chaitanya Giri is Professor of Environmental and Space Studies at FLAME University.
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