India surprised the world when it announced the first-ever successful completion of its anti-satellite missile test following reports that it first failed to pull off this impressive feat in February. Responsible members of the international community immediately voiced concern about the implications that this development could have for regional strategic security vis-à-vis Pakistan and its Chinese ally, but no sooner were the consequences of this move beginning to sink in did India surprise everyone once more earlier this week by launching a spy satellite together with a cubesat swarm, which dramatically sent the message that it insists being regarded by the world as a de-facto “space power”. The timing of all of this is clearly meant to give a boost to incumbent Prime Minister Modi as he battles for his political life ahead of next week’s onset of India’s month-long general election process that will conclude by the end of May.
Irrespective of the domestic political benefits that Modi expects to gain from this move, it’s unquestionable that it forever altered the strategic balance between India and its Pakistani and Chinese neighbors, though the implications shouldn’t be over-exaggerated. China is still far ahead in the so-called “space race” and already fields many more military satellites than India does, though Pakistan is an altogether different story in this respect. Nevertheless, Pakistan is thought to have access to China’s satellites and therefore doesn’t necessarily need to have its own, which serves a dual benefit because it can therefore invest in other military technologies instead of this costly one and Islamabad can also rely on Beijing’s capabilities in the event of a crisis. This second-mentioned aspect is exceptionally important because it means that India’s couldn’t “blind” the Pakistani military without taking down China’s satellites and immediately involving it in whatever conflict New Delhi attempts to provoke.
Therefore, for as destabilizing of a development as India’s emergence as a “space power” is for regional security, it’ll also have the effect of catalyzing the equal and opposite reaction of strengthening the Pakistani-Chinese Strategic Partnership and these two Great Powers’ complex multilayered interdependency on one another in pursuit of regional stability. This realization might in turn lead to India pivoting even faster towards the US in an attempt to “equalize” the military-strategic situation in South Asia that would otherwise be to its disadvantage, possibly leading to a system of quasi-bipolarity in this part of the world, one in which Russia could leverage its excellent relations with all of those parties apart from the US in order to maintain a stable “balance” between them. Looked at in this way, while there might not be any losers from India’s latest moves per se, Russia might ultimately end up as the grand strategic winner.
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