South Asia Center Deputy Director Bharath Gopalaswamy writes for US News and World Report on cooperation between the United States and India regarding major space projects:
President Brack Obama will host Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi next week during his first visit to Washington when he arrives from the United Nations General Assembly in New York. Obama congratulated Modi right after his electoral victory and invited him to Washington, even though he was denied a U.S. visa a decade ago for his alleged role in communal violence when he served as chief minister of Gujarat. The visit signals a commitment to advance the U.S.-India relationship despite the stagnancy faced in the last few years because of policy paralysis with the previous Indian government as well as the U.S. being consumed by events in the Middle East and Ukraine.
India made history this week with its Mars rover successfully maneuvering itself into the orbit around the red planet. This follows the launch of NASA’s Mars spacecraft, Maven, which successfully went into orbit earlier this week. This burgeoning success in space exploration for NASA and the Indian Space Research Organization provides the necessary boost to deepen civilian space cooperation between the two nations. Obama and Modi should take advantage of the Indian Space Research Organization and NASA’s recent achievements by unveiling a long-term bilateral initiative that aims to take advantage of the relative strengths of the two nations for successfully exploring outer space. Deepening and strengthening space collaboration not only produces results in outer space but also has the potential to increase collaborative opportunities for universities, advance science and technology research and develop human capital. These are critical aspects because such collaborative opportunities go beyond the government-to-government level and increase people-to-people level contact that is key to sustaining a long-term partnership between the two most important democracies in the world.