The Indian Moon and its terrestrial implications

(To Philip Del Monte)

India has landed on the moon. When in Italy it was just after 14.30 pm on 23 August the mission Chandrayaan-3 it landed near the South Pole, where no one has ever landed before.

"Today every Indian rejoices. But this success belongs to all humanity and will help the lunar missions of other countries in the future", commented Indian President Narendra Modi, adding in the tone of a country that has now become an essential reference in the technological and spatial fields, which "we can all aspire to the moon and beyond".

Only the United States, the then USSR and China had managed to bring an automatic machine to the lunar surface. With the company of Chandrayaan-3 India became the first nation to conquer the South Pole of the earth's satellite. This is an even more important undertaking given the failure of the Russian mission just a few days earlier Moon-25, whose lander crashed on the lunar surface, with clear setbacks for the Kremlin's space policy.

Chandrayaan-3 it is only the latest step in a race for space and technological power that has led the West to perceive India as now capable of rivaling China in this field. With a $75 million budget, India has built its own 3.900-kilogram probe capable of flying its flag to the moon. A "low cost" space program, as defined by Elon Musk, the founder of SpaceX and supporter of commercialization of space, which has led to clear successes.

This is only the latest episode in which Delhi can compete with Beijing. Suffice it to say that India has surpassed China in terms of population number and GDP trend, with the OECD forecasting 6% growth for Indians and 5,4% for Chinese. They are followed by the third "emerging power" of Asia, Indonesia, with 4,7%, against global economic growth of 2,7%.

But the transformation of India into a space power and, hence, into a power more generally, in the era in which the states capable of creating a mix between military capabilities and technological development are confronting each other (overturning Ennio Di Nolfo's thesis on the transition of great empires from the purely military sphere to the technical-scientific one), cannot be linked solely and exclusively to economic situations.

As taught by the last of the classical realists, George Liska, history is replete with examples of militarily and technologically advanced powers but with weak economies and vice versa. The canons of force in international relations and in the conflictual discipline that takes the name of geopolitics – which is one of the keys to understanding realism – cannot be restricted merely to the economic field or to that of social equality. Interpreting the world with the canons of the liberal democratic West would risk falling into error.

India's success lies, in fact, in its ability to identify technological development and participation in the space race as priorities according to its geopolitical position as a nation with global ambitions. In a phase of "regressive globalization", think of oneself in terms glocal becomes essential and Delhi understood this.

However, it is not recently that India has begun its rise to technological power. Indeed, it is a choice that comes from afar, with the establishment of the Indian "Silicon Valley" in Bangalore, home to leading companies in the defence, aerospace and semiconductor sectors, but also with the return home of Indian entrepreneurs who, after founding start-up in the USA and having learned the "tricks of the trade" in California, they returned home to continue the work.

The space economy in India today is worth 9,6 billion dollars, with a growth margin that could lead it to be worth 13 billion by 2025, i.e. one year before the planned launch of a new lunar mission aimed at exploring the Pole South of the satellite. And this economic sector, so important not only for technological development but also for strengthening Delhi's political-strategic posture, is mainly supported, as already mentioned, by start-up such as Skyrott Aerospace, Dhruva Space and Pixxel, all engaged in telecommunications development and modernization projects in collaboration with the national space agency, Isro.

The rapid development and spread of start-up with high technological value - there are a total of 140 that have flourished in recent years - and available to collaborate with the State for the strengthening of national security, modernization and the "race for technologies", points out a sort of parallelism between India and Israel. The Jewish state is considered to all intents and purposes a "start-up nation" with a focus on the deep tech, given the priority needs of the defense and security sectors, and favors the development of these innovative companies also with a view to strengthening their power.

Thanks to its technological development, India is also attracting the attention of women big tech and the US government which in January signed a joint initiative agreement on critical and emerging technologies with the Delhi government. A protocol that has an evident anti-Chinese function.

At the latest BRICS summit, coinciding precisely with the success of the Indian lunar mission, President Modi proposed to the partners of the "global South" to come together in a consortium to apply common policies for space exploration. A strong signal from Delhi to Beijing which is clearly jealous of its spatial autonomy and careful guardian of its secrets on the matter. India does not yet have the strength to undermine Chinese primacy, but it does not seem to hide the fact that it has this ambition.

It would be wrong, in fact, to think that India belongs or intends to belong to the alternative camp to the West and, if it aims in any case at its legitimate strategic autonomy, has severed its ties with Russia, in particular for carriers , subscribing to the lunar program Artemis of NASA. Furthermore, ISRO has signed collaboration agreements with Google and Microsoft and in view of the launch of Chandrayaan-4scheduled for 2026, Indians are strengthening their partnerships with Japan, a partner nation for the future new lunar mission.

Image: Indian Space Research Organisation