First a controversial nuclear deal with the US. Now looms the possibility of a space deal.
Such a hint was dropped by a US-based history scholar, Ashok Maharaj, on Wednesday while addressing a symposium on ``Key Moments in Human Spaceflight,'' to mark 50 years of the first manned space mission by Yuri Gagarin and 30 years of space flight operations.
Ashok, currently a Guggeinham fellow in the division of space history at the National Air and Space Museum in Washington announced: ``An Indo-Us space agreement similar to 123 pact of the Indo-Us nuke deal is in the offing.''
The reason for this, he said was that the Us wanted to play an active role in India's space programme and Boeing wanted to have a major part.
After the experience with the Indo-Us nuke deal, India needs to tread with considerable caution while going in for a space deal. The reason is while seeking advantages from the deal, India's space programme should not surrender to the Us. It should be completely slanted in favour of this country unlike the nuke agreement.
In the case of the nuke deal, India seems to have tied itself up in knots because the liabality issue is beating all solutions. This has prevented the full operationalisation of the deal. A similar thing definately should not happen in the space sector.
A possible scenario being envisaged is that the deal could perhaps lead to a situation, which may result in India completely scrubbing its manned space mission project and instead depend upon the US private players to fly an Indian to space. This should not happen.
What is the message? Based on the experience of the Indo-Us nuke deal, let this country move cautiously while negotiating a space pact with the Us.
Ashok's talk mainly focussed on this country's manned mission project which according to him was the result of China sending a man to orbit.
Seeing the slow pace of development in the human space flight project, he estimated that it will take anything between 12 to 15 years for the project to fructify, not seven to eight years as being repeatedly mentioned.
``There is no planning and a launch vehicle has to be developed. The project has not received the formal go-ahead from the government,'' he said.
``Starting late has its advantage. India can learn from other countries to define its own programme and frame it to suit its own needs,'' he said while emphasising that its core programme should remain unaffected..
He said that India's manned space mission project is driven by prestige to catch up with China, ``China has crossed several milestones. By the time, India puts its first man in orbit, China will be far ahead. India should not ape China,'' he added.
Though Isro officials refuse to make a firm committment on this issue, Ashok believes that if the human space flight programme by chance turns into a reality, then there is every likelihoold that ``in the next 20 years time frame there is a possibility of sending a man to the moon.''
A valid point.
But there are two or three points which can be dicussed:
* China is building its own space station. What will be India's response if China invites India's participation in the programme?
* Again what will be India's reaction, if Pakistan participates in the China's space station programme.
* The Chinese space station will have a three-man crew. Can it be an Chinese, Indian and a Pakistani?
Yes, a dream scenario, but it can become a reality.