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Why India’s Mars Mission is about more than power and prestige

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This handout photograph released by the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) on November 6, 2013, shows the PSLV-C25 rocket carrying the Mars Orbiter Spacecraft blasting off from the launch pad at Sriharikota on November 5, 2013. (AFP Photo)

Space travel has historically been closely tied to competition for political prestige and influence in international relations, but the Nov. 5 launch of India’s Mars mission orbiter spacecraft by India has proved there is much more to it than that.

The fact that India’s first inter-planetary satellite was built by its own homegrown scientists in barely 15 months, at a record-low cost of $73 million, has become a matter of intense pride, and part of Indians’ collective psyche.

It was a can-do, Sputnik-like feeling that defied the usual lament that defines average Indians who feel let down by daily governance failures and infrastructure bottlenecks of a dysfunctional governance system. That same system delivered a psychological ticket into the wider solar system for Indian people who crave grand achievements and global recognition for their scientific human capital.

The widespread joy in the nation at the launch of the India’s Mars mission orbiter, Mangalyaan, should not be mistaken for vanity or escapism, however. Patriotic Indians are acutely aware of the rising profile of their country in global economics and geopolitics, alongside other emerging powers belonging to BRICS and similar groups. Every milestone in advanced rocket science, literally a rarefied and sophisticated field that few nations can master, is a shot in the arm for national self-confidence, showing that India is headed for global leadership. When the chips are down, or if there is a national calamity, memories of the Mars orbiter blazing a trail in the sky will sustain the faith that the future belongs to India.

Perception of competition with China

Many analysts argue that India is engaged in a space race specifically with China, and that the former’s Mars orbiter was spurred on by the failure of China’s Yinghuo-1 mission to Mars in November 2011.

The Indian Space Research Organization’s chief scientist, K. Radhakrishnan, rejects such comparisons, however, saying: “We are in competition with ourselves, in the areas we have charted for ourselves.” For the scientific community, which is directly involved in high stakes projects such as the Mars orbiter, it is obvious that they set goals internally and are determined to achieve them. However, the belief that India is trying to steal a march over China is widespread.

China’s state-owned media have also echoed this perception, by reacting with jealousy or wariness to India’s Mars mission. The Global Times, published in Beijing, tried to reassure nationalistic Chinese readers that in space technology, their country “has already been in advance of India” and that China “has no choice” but to invest more in its own space exploratory abilities “in front of an India that is striving to catch up with China.”

Yet, unlike in the Cold War era, when the USSR and the US engaged in a spectacular tit-for-tat space race while remaining economically and politically estranged from each other, China and India today have a booming trade relationship and are not engaged in any outright ideological confrontation. If there is a “new Cold War” rivalry now, it is more between a whole group of powers led by Russia and the US.

There are elements of a Cold War mindset when China and India square off in strategic competition, but it remains embedded within the liberal framework of economic globalization and cooperation. The Chinese Foreign Ministry’s call for “joint efforts” in space exploration after India’s Mars orbiter launch underlines the complexity of this key bilateral relationship in Asia.

India is mindful that the strides it’s making in space science can also be a medium for enhancing international cooperation. For instance, its Moon mission in 2008 won the International Cooperation Award from the International Lunar Exploration Working Group for carrying a payload of as many as 20 countries.

As India’s satellite launch capacity expands, it can also offer friendly countries a platform for joint space exploration and help to mitigate predictions of galactic war. Through technology, India can assume international leadership in cutting-edge dimensions and issues.

India’s Mars Mission – Race to be first in Asia

Missions to Mars are treacherous, however. Scientists at the Indian Space Research Organization point out that 30 out of a total of 51 Mars missions, from various countries, have ended in failure.

Bets are currently being placed on whether India’s Mangalyaan (Mars Craft) will succeed in reaching Mars’ orbit and detecting possible signs of life there in the form of methane gas.

The satellite is projected to reach its destination, 400 million kilometers away, by September 2014. Asia’s two largest economic powers, Japan and China, launched their own Mars missions in 2003 and 2011, respectively, but neither of them reached Mars’ orbit due to technical problems. Regardless of the current euphoria in the Indian media surrounding the launch, the scientific verdict on Mangalyaan will only come later. A sobering reminder comes from India’s first lunar mission, Chandrayaan, which was designed to explore the moon for two years, but was declared lost after 312 days due to technical snags.

India is only the sixth power to embark to Mars. If India’s Mars mission succeeds, India would be the first in Asia to do so, and only the fourth in the world after the Soviet Union, the US and the European Union.

Military angle

There are obviously military applications to India’s space program, and India’s longstanding National Satellite System, now in its third decade, has long been closely linked to its Integrated Missile Development Program,
which built India’s intermediate-range ballistic missiles. Today, India can boast of an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) named Agni V with a strike range of 5,000 kilometers. This is due in part to the cooperation between the civilian scientific community and the defense industry.

Since the weaponization of space is now in full throttle, with the Chinese competing hard against Russia and the US, one benefit for India of projects such as the Mars orbiter mission is that it demonstrates the country’s long-range military potential. It is tacitly acknowledged that the civilian space program brings strategic benefits to the country, as military thinkers say space will be the arbiter of future wars. The potential dual use of space technology is why the Chinese media has reacted to India’s Mars orbiter by reminding the Chinese people of the need to “construct our comprehensive strategic power.”

Brainpower versus naysayers

As can be expected in a developing country with a free media, in the run-up to the Mars orbiter launch Indian opinion makers also considered the opportunity costs of space missions. Even though the costs of Mangalyaan are revolutionarily low by global standards and a feather in the cap for India’s famed ‘frugal innovation’ industry, some in India complained about “wasteful expenditure” on nationalistic ego trips, when money could have been better spent on economic development schemes and alleviating poverty.

But the “guns versus butter” argument, which assumes that there has to be a tradeoff between state spending on military and the basic needs of citizens, is negated by the concrete benefits that India’s satellite system has brought to the lives of ordinary people. From meteorological predictions that have saved thousands of lives from natural disasters, to broadcasting and telecommunications, India’s National Satellite System has greatly helped human development in the country. If India remains poor and plagued by economic imbalances and inequalities, blaming greedy space scientists is way off the mark.

Returning to the national psyche, why has the Mars orbiter launch struck such a chord among all sectors and classes in Indian society? It’s because India has always viewed its intellectual and mental faculties as extraordinary, and rocket science is revered as a key frontier of the human mind. Children in India learn in school textbooks about the ancient astronomer Aryabhata (AD 476–550) and his prescient works about the solar system and models in which the earth turns on its own axis. Especially in southern India, which produces the vast majority of the astrophysicists who lead the country’s space research, the tradition of excelling in mathematics and physics is deeply ingrained in the culture.

To most Indians, their support for the Mangalyaan mission is not only about winning the space race for international prestige and influence, but also about reaffirming the core love in Indian society for pure and applied science, which is considered the summit of intellectual achievement and the testing ground for individual brilliance. The Mars orbiter speaks to the innate curiosity and rational scientific temper that Indians aspire to. In short, it’s India’s alter ego in space.

Continue Reading: Asia’s Race to Mars; India’s Power Projection and Criticism

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The World Reporter. The article was first published on RT
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Sanskar Shrivastava is the founder of international students' journal, The World Reporter. Passionate about dynamic occurrence in geopolitics, Sanskar has been studying and analyzing geopolitcal events from early life. At present, Sanskar is a student at the Russian Centre of Science and Culture and will be moving to Duke University.

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Humanity Endures During Coronavirus Pandemic

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Photo by Press Information Bureau, Government of India

The world changed exponentially since the pandemic broke out. We changed too. Emotions are running high. We have learnt to take one day at a time and have stopped expecting changes to happen overnight.

“COVID19 is menacing the whole of humanity – and so the whole of humanity must fight back”
A clarion call from United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres is a call to unity and solidarity. Already plagued by natural/manmade disasters and wars, many countries seem to bite the dust for want of resources in the fight against the virus. Warning each other against complacency is appreciable but never a blame game to cover up a dysfunctional response. Not all update themselves on the governments, new economic policies and R&D on Covid vaccine. Many we come across seem to be making wise individual choices. No matter how badly the tiers of government fail us, there will always be thousands of people working to make things better. Besides, finding reasons and faults on policies for the spread doesn’t help. A virulent strain of flu had managed to spread within a few months to the remotest corners of the world infecting half a billion people – more than a quarter of the human species in 1918 long before the current age of globalization.

Separating, alienating and forswearing the endless moments of contact that knit society together thrust us into frightening new realities. The good is still there. Social distancing is nothing but taking a step back to literally give breathing space to others. Going by news & views, we understand that amid concerns of rising numbers of positive cases in frustrating circumstances, acts of kindness and solidarity are burgeoning. Yes, it’s been extremely sad and sobering to watch this all unfold, but watching people share resources and supporting one another in every conceivable way has made us feel more connected to our local communities. Whether singing a song together out on balconies, getting groceries for the elderly or calling a friend to alleviate anxiety and fear, each one I know play a part and take comfort in a sense of togetherness. We are steadily aware of our limitations yet don’t hesitate to free our wells of compassion. Do we think twice and thrice to make an online contribution to save the lives of people we don’t know and will never know!

Sadly, it has taken an invisible virus to help us belive once again that we are strongest only when we have the welfare of others in our mind. Halfway through quarantine and self-isolation a phone call, a kind word, an opportunity to reach out, a breeze, bird calls, one good news and loss of a loved one, we are hit with the necessary humility and awe we ought to feel and appreciate just how beautiful our world is and precious life is.

Post pandemic recovery will be better and bigger if life goes on with this beautiful idea, of humility, inwardness – as an ethical relationship, for the sake of others. For better or for worse, we have learnt that one can’t be an island unto himself. Lives are intertwined and are bound together. We, humans produce more rubbish than any other species. The growth in the human population is part of the explanation, but cannot account for all of the extra rubbish, a result of haste and greed both which almost skinned humans of humanity.

Unity among countries must ensure that all countries are equipped to trace, isolate and treat people infected by COVID-19. Only a global effort can avoid the collapse of any country’s medical system. Sanctions that affect health care should never be imposed. Development in one part of the world should not rob another country of it’s resources. Humanity gains the upper hand over invisible predators through the sharing of reliable scientific information, global solidarity, vaccinations, antibiotics, improved hygiene and a much better medical infrastructure. Today,it doesn’t take too much to figure out that global sharing and caring is the best defense. The Jing Si aphorism, “Good actions require everyone’s cooperation. So let’s not cling to personal biases” holds good for all times.

Stories of good samaritans are aplenty. To know humanity is still alive and kicking and is at it’s best when united assures us that we’ll come out of this “abnormal” time with a new normal. In their own unique ways, humans respond to protect life and health and ensure respect for fellow beings. ‘single-nucleotide polymorphisms’ are no joke. From handing over meals, survial kits, medicines, home made masks to calling on an old couple across the street, everything is humanity in action and it is the power of this humanity – humane behaviour towards other humans – that we seek to celebrate, improve and increase, especially during crucial times. Remember “A person with a generous heart and compassion for all beings leads the most blessed life”.

With thousands of migrant workers taking it on their chin, vehicles filled with food and ration along highways reach the needy and stranded and canteens serve free food. Rays of sunshine! We see through hypocrisy and deceptions, hear excuses for inefficiency, inadequacy and inflexibility and within the tumult and uncertainty we are doing much, much better in life than we thought we can. Quietly. Kindly. Gently. Being able to spare a part of us to help someone live is worth being thankful for. ” Giving with an expectation for return brings misery”. May we give generously, but don’t guilt ourselves if we can’t. If we have nothing left to spare, let’s go slow and kind.

The world is being taught a lesson, the harder way. This lesson is not about rich and powerful versus poor and powerless but about leadership that treasure the common wealth and common good, above private greed and profit and above protecting the privileges of a handful elites.

None of us are actually going anywhere. Might as well stay. The conclusion we draw from this crisis is that all humans matter equally, that we need to give a hand, raise one another, flourish or perish together- no matter what our limitations are, we’re capable of a great deal. This virus backlash is nothing short of a fleeting lesson to all leaders about how sane, humane societies should function all the time. Those who regard themselves as wonderfully favored of leadership, power and pelf are called to do great things. Anything that constantly arise to cause conflicts or disunion must be questioned, criticized, denounced and judged.

Be it a forced contemplation of our mortality or a sudden urge of self denial or an awareness of the passage of time and life, this screeching halt is proof that humans are designed to be more productive when connected, even in isolation. So, not all hope is lost. The time has come when we must know for ourselves why we believe in humanity as we do.

“Do something good for somebody today; the people who are trying to make the world worst aren’t taking days off.”

Gestures to honor humanity are varied, aplenty. A flypast in India is a cruel joke on the already tumbling down economy and on the selfless humanitarians who spare nothing to reach out. We can only wish the trail of showered petals, if showered will guide the departing victims of COVID19. Flying past/over ground realities is a highly irresponsible act of governments. Also, a misuse and mismanagement of meagre resources.

Was it a premonition that urged saint Thiruvalluvar, celebrated Tamil poet and philosopher to get on with kural 578 which when translated into English goes as

” The world is theirs (Kings) who are able to show kindness, without injury to their affairs, (administration of Justice).

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Congress’s Electoral Enervation

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BlakeShramster / CC BY-SA

Lately, the Grand Old Party of India has been suffering from severe political lacerations. It is bleeding profusely but it still refuses to recognize and feel the pain of its grisly wounds. The Congress party is obstinately practicing political podsnappery and this is further eviscerating its relevance. Slowly and steadily, its ideological roots are being chipped away. We are witnessing a kind of dilemmatic democratic party, which is strangulating in the ever-shifting tectonic plates of Indian politics. The fresh act of defection by Jyotiraditya Scindia foregrounds the ideologically weak aura which now surrounds the Congress.

In every period of its history, a particular type of ideological encrustation surrounded the Congress and illuminated its charm among the Indian voters. This ideology rooted it firmly in a vast network of ideologies. This ideology, for the most part, has been secular and liberal and acted as a strong bulwark against a xenophobically framed anti-secular strategy. But now, this prodigious party has shrunk to a miniscule group. This cataclysmic contraction has happened primarily due to the elitist imagery to which it was tethered. Congress’s political rivals portrayed it as an inherently elitist group by harping on its corruption scandals like the Satyam Scam, Coal Scam, Chopper Scam, Adarsh Scam and Tatra Truck Scam. All this overemphasis on the financial impurity of the Congress led to the citizens believing that the Congress party is an aristocratic admixture of kleptocracy and bogus secularism.

The political dynasticism of the Congress further solidified this elitist imagery and soon, Congress became the ‘suit, boot ki Sarkar’. The usage of the aforementioned epithet successfully established the presence of the Congress party as a technocratic liberal party, accustomed to high-handed bureaucratic methods of administration. The attribute of a ‘pro-people party’ was snatched away from the Congress and it was represented as a technocratic group, largely unconnected from the material conditions of the citizens.

Apart from the political and financial palm-greasing, the Congress has also been disemboweled due to its confounding ideological quagmire. The Grand Old Party is stuck in a regal fort, where it is continuously wavering between a secular strategy and a thinly-veiled contrivance of religious pandering. It has already flip-flopped on its ideological plank by pitching Rahul Gandhi as a religious leader which actually backfired because people at once understood that he had suddenly become a synthetically Hinduized leader.

And now, it is lending its support to the Anti-CAA protests and has all of a sudden, arrived like a knight in shining armor, chaotically shouting secular slogans. Opportunistic acts like these cause severe trust deficit and the party incurs widespread odium for its electoral opportunism. So, due to the Congress’s ideological shilly-shally, its attempt to provide guidance to the Anti-CAA protests is seen as a crude act of politically hijacking the protests. To say succinctly, the Congress has been utterly passive in reacting to some major political events and has not even tried to extend its sinews to drag itself out from the quicksand of financial dissoluteness and ideological vacillation.

Due to all the above mentioned iniquitous inadequacies, Congress is withering and losing its elephantine presence on the electoral platform. This is the most appropriate time for the Congress to recognize its Achilles heel and try to overcome this deficiency. The defection of Jyotiraditya Scindia highlights the fact that now, an ideological string no longer ties any Congress member and the party needs to alter its highly feudal organizational structure which is identical to a form of royal structure, based on monarchical munificence. The Congress party can utilize the following remedial measures to perform the medical operation which is indispensable for it to regain its health.

Constitutional Struggles

It should try assiduously to interconnect itself with the common masses and change its political behavioral pattern by staging what can be called ‘constitutional struggles’. These constitutional struggles will essentially be democratic demonstrations, aiming to recover the lost sheen of the constitution. These protests should be able to blend constitutional patriotism with a Gandhian non-violent idea of struggle. In this way, the Congress party would be successful in politically fructifying its vast receptacles of historical significance and will harmonize its history as a torchbearer of freedom with the present calamitous conditions. One important reason behind the need to make Mahatma Gandhi the vanguard of Congress’s recuperation struggle is the vast space which he occupies in the collective imagination of the Indian citizens. By spotlighting Gandhi, the Congress party can easily initiate a resistance movement whose objective will be to find the Gandhian truths in this age of political prevarications and fabrications.

Change Organizational Configurations

The Congress party needs to change its organizational configurations. The sybaritic structure of dynasticism should be superseded by a bottom-up approach which is decentralized. The present organizational architecture is extremely centralistic and all the members of the Congress party are seen as the supine members of a sycophantic entourage, revolving around the singular nucleus of nobility, which has invariably been the Gandhi family. The senior members of the Congress party such as Ghulam Nabi Azad, Ahmed Patel and Manmohan Singh are depicted as the servile stooges of the Gandhi family who possess an unbreakable fidelity to the dynastic autocracy of the Congress party. The congress leadership is also currently rudderless. During the elections, it played the role of a dabbler. After Indira Gandhi, all the Gandhis (Except Sanjay Gandhi) were reluctant politicians. They were compelled because the Nehru – Gandhi name was associated with the party. All these aspects of party functioning need to be radically changed so that non-Gandhi members are not seen as mere appendages of the supposed undisputed overlord which is the Gandhi family. (3) A coherently unified ideological political programme needs to be built. The lumbering party is in a state of delirium and is unable to properly specify its political stance. It should solidly settle this predicament by choosing to continue with its former political posture as a truly secular and democratic party, committed to constitutional values. If this operation is not undertaken, the Congress will be finally consigned to the political graveyard, where it will die with its shambolic ideological structure.

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5 Ways to Strengthen Sibling Bond

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Blood is always thicker than water. This is one of the most appropriate proverbs one can find.

Blood relations always prove to be the most important and everything fades away when it comes to your own blood. Sibling bond is one of the closest bonds one can have.

During childhood any child with a sibling can understand that bond and feel the closeness on that bond. In Spite of endless fights, disagreements, siblings love each other the most and are very protective of each other.

It is very easy to maintain this bond while you are younger and living together, the challenge comes to maintain that bond while you grow up and start moving towards your own social and domestic life. Here are some tips how you can strengthen your sibling bond while still handling your work, social and domestic life:

1. Plan Holidays Together:

Make a pact that every year you all will get together and plan a holiday either with family(if married) or just all the siblings together. it will make sure that you are taking time out for yourselves and not getting faded in everyday life.

2. Have a Private Group Chat:

Siblings can make sure that you all initiate private group chats and make sure you share your everyday routine, happiness, problems etc in order to keep everyone in the loop of your life.

Group chat makes sure that you are catching up on each other on an everyday basis and is a constant part of each other’s lives.

3. Send Gifts to Each Other:

Siblings can plan to send each other gifts on different occasions that will help in building a close relationship with each other. Sometimes, it is possible your sibling might be based far away or in a foreign country. There are so many online platforms available where you can send a gift to your siblings whether its online birthday cake delivery or online rakhi delivery etc. everything is available on online portals.

4. Help each other in Reaching Goals:

Siblings are the most important people who can push you towards your goal. Siblings can encourage each other towards what is the best course to take for a bright future. Sometimes a sibling can recognise your potential much faster than you yourself can. Thus it is important that you share your goals and aspirations and listen to each other in order to go forward in your life.

5. Cultivate Friendship:

It is very important that siblings should cultivate not only sibling bonds but become best friends and should be able to confide in each other. This is only possible if they work on developing only  siblings but a friendship bond. A good friendship will ensure that it becomes very easy for siblings to communicate with each other and discuss any issues they might face. It is important that the friendship is of a level that when one sibling needs help they should reach their sibling in the very first course.

So, these were some tips that can strengthen your singing bond. If you follow these tips, you can make sure that you will become best friends with your siblings and will have a great relationship despite a life of your own.

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