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Some breathing space for troubled India-US ties

world Updated: Jan 08, 2014 23:56 IST
Yashwant Raj
Yashwant Raj
Hindustan Times
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It may not be business as usual yet, but India may take a small step in that direction this week when its scientists attend a US-hosted meet here on outer space exploration.

India is one of 35 space-faring nations attending the meet organised by the state department -- the first-ever International Space Exploration Forum -- on Thursday.

The Indian delegation is not led by a minister -- the minister in charge of space is none other than Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. The delegation will comprise a few senior ISRO scientists.

The space forum may well be the first non-Khobragade contact between India and the US after the row started with the diplomat’s arrest on December 12. And the fact that it is happening despite India’s latest warnings, makes it significant. On Monday, joint secretary for the Americas Vikram Doraiswamy had told US ambassador to India Nancy Powell that it can’t be business as usual.

The meet, though a multilateral affair, would be a key platform for India to seek a larger say on space matters, helping the nation build on its new-found muscle -- a Mars mission underway and a successful GSLV launch.

India likes to think of itself as a No 3 or 4 space power based on capabilities, and believes exploration of outer space needs to be regulated to prevent a mad scramble.

“It (the meet) will feature high-level, policy discussions about the future of space exploration, developments in robotic space exploration, extending humanity’s reach beyond low-Earth orbit, and the importance of international cooperation,” said state department’s media invite on Tuesday.

The opening session on Thursday will include remarks by the US deputy secretary of state William Burns, and President Barack Obama’s S&T adviser John P Holdren.