G20 Space Economy Leaders Meeting in Shillong
-By Anumita Das
“Anyone who goes to space tries to look at his own country first, but soon it appears that there is no boundary between the countries and the entire world is one family where our destinies are integrated.” India’s first citizen to go to space, Wing Commander Rakesh Sharma had shared this thought decades ago and it is now reflected in India’s G20 Presidency – Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam.
G20 Sherpa of India Amitabh Kant reiterated the quote at the recently held G20 meeting on ‘Space Economy, Policy & New Space’ in Shillong and rightfully connected the dots that eventually form the whole wide world as “One Earth, One Family with One Future.”
Meghalaya hosted the two-day precursor event of the G20 Space Economy Leaders Meeting (SELM) on April 17th and 18th in its capital Shillong and welcomed the delegates around the world to its hilly home. While the delegates from G20 as well as Guest countries discussed space technologies with a focus on future collaborations in science missions, the State arranged for tours to the travel hotspots of the Scotland of the East.
Space technologies such as satellite- based earth observation, digital communications and navigation, their positive impact on agriculture, disaster management, climate change issues and many more topics were discussed during the meeting. Kant observed that Shillong was chosen as the ideal place to kickstart the Space discussions given the fact that it houses the North Eastern Space Applications Centre (NESAC) at Umiam.
The NESAC, which is a joint initiative of the Department of Space and North Eastern Council (NEC), provides developmental support to the North Eastern region using space science and technology. It has the mandate to develop high technology infrastructure support for holistic development of the region by providing space science and technology support. Considering the evolving space applications and the need to conduct space activities in a more responsible manner, the precursor event in Shillong stressed on forming possible alliances among space agencies and industries.
Hotel Courtyard by Marriott held the inaugural event in presence of Union Minister of State for Finance Pankaj Chaudhury, G20 Sherpa Kant, Meghalaya Chief Minister Conrad K. Sangma, Secretary, Department of Space, Somanath S, Chairman IN-SPACe Dr Pawan Kumar Goenka, the delegates and other dignitaries. Union Minister of State (Ind. Charge), Science & Technology and former DoNER Minister Dr. Jitendra Singh joined the programme virtually and talked about the progress made so far in India’s space segment.
“So far as the Indian space and Research Organisation (ISRO) is concerned, it has been striving to meet the demands for the space- based services and at the same time it is also realizing the need to concentrate on the research for developing new technologies and applications. The government headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi took a path-breaking decision to open up the space sector for Indian private industry through the 2020 space sector reforms in order to enhance the participation of the private players in end- to-end space activities.
The increased private industry participation will eventually result in increased contribution of India in the global space economy,” said Dr. Singh during his address at the inaugural event. A total of 11 meetings, starting from January 2023 (one in each of the seven North East states including in Arunachal Pradesh and four in Assam). One meeting was also held in Kashmir and all meetings were held in different parts of the country at different times. The event is among the 200 meetings in over 50 major cities comprising almost all states of India across 32 different work streams. The G20 or Group of 20 is an intergovernmental forum comprising 19 countries and the European Union (EU). Australia, Canada, Saudi Arabia, US, India, Russia, South Africa, Turkey, Argentina, Brazil, Mexico, France, Germany, Italy, UK, China, Indonesia, Japan and South Korea are the Members of the international group.
The G20 accounts for around 80% of gross world product (GWP),75% of international trade and two-thirds of the global population. It works to address major issues related to the global economy, such as international financial stability, climate change mitigation, and sustainable development. India as one of the fastest and biggest growing economies is the only Member from entire South Asia. The delegates were mesmerised by the natural beauty of the NE states and Kashmir.
Kant spoke on Shillong’s vital role in developing space technology in NER because of the presence of NESAC. He also spoke on the need for collaborations among industry experts and entities for further impetus to the space sector. Highlighting the Indian Space Policy 2023, he said that it was announced with the goal of institutionalizing and facilitating the access of private sector participation in the space sector for India. “It continues to hold the vision of Dr Vikram Sarabhai at its core, and provides a framework of roles and responsibilities of ISRO, IN-SPACe, and the private sector to work together towards establishing India as a hub of the global space economy. This approach encourages developing meaningful partnerships with the international community”, he further added.
ISRO Chairman Somanath S lauded NESAC for addressing the issues of the NE region and asserted that benefits of space technology would increase with time and eventually benefit the global economy. Speaking about the need for cooperation among nations for the development of space technology and its applications, he urged members to contribute in strengthening the existing bilateral relationships.
Space economy was the centre of the discussions at the high-level meeting. The session on “Evolving Indian space policy framework and future outlook” moderated by INSPACe Chairman, Dr Goenka deliberated on various topics like framework for measuring space economy, New Space and responsibility for sustainable and safe space operations, New Space economy in the G20 countries and opportunities for collaboration etc. In a nutshell, the precursor event laid the agenda ahead of the main SELM event in Bengaluru and deliberated on the concerns as well as potential in the space sector. It also presented the perspectives and status of the G20 countries in the space economy.
Following the country’s idea of Atithi Devo Bhava, Meghalaya treated the guests with its nature-filled charm. The delegates from USA, UK, China, Russia, Germany, France, Oman, Argentina, Australia, South Korea, Mexico, Türkiye, Bhutan, Sri Lanka, Netherlands and Indonesia made their way to Sohra (Cherrapunji) to explore the natural beauty of the host State. They also tried their hands on golf at one of the oldest, largest and finest natural golf circuits in the world, the Shillong Golf Course, also called the Glen Eagles of the East. And in order to learn more about the host, the foreign delegates headed to the famous Don Bosco Museum among other places.
The recently held precursor event of G20 is also expected to showcase and benchmark Meghalaya as a prime destination for tourism, investment and development. Additionally, the presence of startups in the space economy sector at the precursor event will further encourage private participation in all areas of space activities and eventually result in increased contribution of India in the global space economy, the organizers felt.