Where Trump and Modi Should Take U.S.-India Space Cooperation

Peter Garretson, Namrata Goswami

During Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Houston, Texas for the September 2 forum organized by the U.S-India Security Forum, at which President Donald Trump was present, the issue of U.S-India space cooperation figured prominently. Texas Senator Ted Cruz highlighted the significance of such bilateral collaboration, and House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer made similar statements. Most critically, U.S-India space cooperation was brought up multiple times by President Trump himself, who stated, “Here in America, we are creating the United States Space Force, and we’re working closely with India to enhance space cooperation… We will pioneer new frontiers in space, working together, raising the sights of humanity. We will uphold our values, defend our liberty, and control our destiny.”

But the context in which bilateral space cooperation is taking place has changed. What is the logic pushing U.S. and India closer on space? How exactly should the two nations seek to cooperate on the issue? And how should they work to move forward on civil, commercial, and military space? The answers to these questions will help shape the complexion of the bilateral U.S.-Indian cooperation in what is fast emerging as a vital domain.

The primary logic underpinning U.S-India security cooperation is a shared concern over China. For the first time since the founding of the United Nations, the authoritarian PRC will have an economy that exceeds that of any single democratic economy, including the United States, within the decade. That configuration of economic power threatens the foundation of liberty in the international system unless the world’s two largest economies and democracies—the United States and India—can come together to offer alternate global leadership.

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