US, India agree to cooperate on space situational awareness

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SEOUL, South Korea — The United States and India have agreed to cooperate on space situational awareness, a deal that the U.S. Department of Defense said would “lay the groundwork for more advanced cooperation in space.”

The agreement was reached April 11 by officials of the two countries on the sidelines of the U.S.-India 2+2 ministerial dialogue in Washington, co-hosted by U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and the Secretary of State Tony Blinken. The Indian delegation was led by Defense Minister Rajnath Singh and Minister of External Affairs Dr. S. Jaishankar.

“The four leaders committed to deepening cooperation in new defense domains, such as space and cyberspace, as the U.S. and Indian militaries jointly meet the challenges of this century,” the U.S. Department of Defense said in an April 11 statement. “The United States and India signed a Space Situational Awareness arrangement, which lays the groundwork for more advanced cooperation in space.”

The two countries also agreed to launch an inaugural Defense Artificial Intelligence Dialogue, while expanding joint cyber training and exercises, according to the statement.

“This [agreement] will support greater information sharing and cooperation in space,” Austin told reporters following the meeting, according to Indian newspaper The Indian Express. “We’re also deepening our cooperation in cyberspace, including through training and exercises later this year. And we’re expanding our information sharing partnership across all warfighting domains.”

Austin said the two countries will “launch new defense space exchanges later this year between the U.S. Space Command and India’s Defense Space Agency.”

India’s defense minister hoped this comprehensive partnership would give a boost to Indian defense companies.

“I shared India’s desire to take this partnership towards co-development and co-production with U.S. companies,” the minister said in an April 12 statement. “We called for increased investments by U.S. defense companies in India under the ‘Make in India’ program. Participation of U.S. entities in industrial collaboration and partnership in research and development will be critical for success of India’s ‘Aatmanirbhar Bharat’ [self-reliant] campaigns.”