Address by Dr Arvind Gupta, Director VIF during the Indian Space Conclave 2023, organised by ISpA on 11 Oct 2023 at Manekshaw Centre, New Delhi

I would like to congratulate the Indian Space Association for organising the Indian Space Conclave 2023, co-hosted by Indo-French Summit.

Following the spectacular success of India’s Chandrayaan-3 moon mission and the launch of Aditya solar mission, this is an ideal time to discuss India’s achievements in space and the prospects for the future. The morale is high and the nation’s imagination has been ignited. We need to build on the momentum generated by the success of Chandrayaan-3 and take effective steps to put in place a vision, policy & strategy for Indian space industry in the next 30 years.

Indeed, the government broke new ground in 2020 by opening the space sector to private industry. It is heartening to note that in a short period since the opening up of the space sector, several Indian private companies and start-ups have notched up significant successes in diverse areas such as earth observation, communication, AI based satellites, miniaturised multi-payload satellites etc. This is only a beginning. Immense opportunities await for us in the emerging space technologies such as Space Situational Awareness, space travel technologies, deep space communication network, deep space exploration, plasma technologies for space, nuclear propulsions etc. A whole session of this conference was devoted to assessing the future trends in space technologies.

So far, the space sector has been dominated by ISRO. Now is the time to diversify space sector and build a strong space economy in the country. India’s private space sector has just begun its journey.

The Indian Space Policy 2023 is a step in the right direction as it will provide regulatory certainty to the stakeholders and help create opportunities and a thriving ecosystem in the country. The idea is to create a level playing field for non-government entities in space sector. These are early days and one hopes that the intended objectives of the space policy are realised sooner than later. Right, well-balanced, forward looking regulation will be crucial for the development of space economy in the country. We will also need to create a space ecosystem, which focusses on creating a well skilled space workforce, a conducive environment for research and developing and a diversified universe of application and services in tune with the requirements of national security and socio-economic developmental goals.

Space, by its very nature, is an international activity. Outer space is governed by a set of international treaties and agreements to which national law is subject to. While India continues to develop as a major space faring nation, we have to be acutely aware of the international environment as well. Unfortunately, the global geopolitical environment has deteriorated in the last few years. Great power rivalries have become acute. Outer space is becoming an arena of arms race. The competition for exploitation of space resources is going to become even more acute. The security of space based and ground assets is paramount for national security.

Today we have urgent need to have a large indigenous ISR programme. Our NAVIC system must be developed and expanded further. We cannot remain dependent upon foreign supplied GPS. This has serious national security implications. Self-reliance in key space technologies is an absolute must. Cybersecurity threats, the threats from electromagnetic and laser weapons to space based assets is real. Our space entrepreneurs need to pay special attention to the security dimension of India’s space programme.

International cooperation will play an important role in the development of India’s space programme and capability. We have to pause international collaborations with due diligence. India and the US are taking steps to further deepen cooperation in the space sector. India has signed the US-led Artemis Accords regime and joined the US for exploration of moon and other celestial objects. This is a major shift in India’s space policy which has so far adhered to UN led international regimes. One hopes that this will ease restrictions on the import of critical technologies and also tie up Indian space companies with US markets. Likewise, Indian private sector should explore opportunities for collaboration with other leading powers such as France, UK, Russia, Japan etc.

ISpA can play a major role in engagement between the Indian space companies and those in other countries. We should not ignore the immense opportunity in the area of space application in the countries of Global South. Indian companies should explore commercial opportunities in Africa, Latin America, Central Asia, West Asia and South Asia.


India has set the target of becoming a developed nation by 2047. This will require multipronged efforts on several fronts. So far, Indian space sector at about Rs 15,000 Cr is small. The share of private sector is miniscule. In order to grow, a well thought out vision, policy and strategy will be required. We will need to prioritise our goals of national security and economy. Indigenisation has been the mantra of Indian Space programme so far. This should remain so. India’s space sector has grown despite sanctions. Our entrepreneurs need to make adequate investments in R&D, skill, training and capacity building. A well-developed space sector will contribute to the growth of Indian economy, Indian society and strengthening of India’s security. Let us not forget that space sector has strategic dimension too. It is not just a sector for exploring commercial opportunities. Today’s conference has contributed to outlining the ways to set up and achieve a strong vision for India’s space sector.

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