India’s Chief of Defense Staff, Naval Chief and Space Industry Call for Deeper Collaborations

Inaugural session at the Indian DefSpace Symposium 2024 organized by Indian Space Association

In an effort to boost the collaboration between the Indian space and defence sectors, the second edition of the ‘Indian DefSpace Symposium 2024’ kicked off today at Manekshaw Centre, New Delhi. The Indian DefSpace Symposium being organized by Indian Space Association (ISpA) is a three-day forum to explore the latest trends and challenges in defence space sector enabling the key stakeholders from the defence sector, DRDO, government entities, and industry professionals to network and collaborate.

The inaugural event was graced by the Chief Guest Admiral R. Hari Kumar, Chief of the Naval Staff, Indian Navy; Guest of Honor Dr. Samir V Kamat, Chairman, DRDO; and various other dignitaries from across the ministries, defence and space industry.

The first day of the event witnessed various sessions and panel discussions with experts from the defence, space sector to deliberate on a wide range of topics like challenges in the sectors, China’s defence space capability, etc.

In the welcome address, Shri Jayant D Patil, Chairman, Indian Space Association, said, Till 2020, we’ve been just about 2% of the global space commerce. Today we have clear plans to reach close to 44 billion dollars. I believe that when all of us between industry, the user, and the space professionals start coming together, things can happen.

We know the sector has been opened in 2020, the policy to create a framework for activating took a little bit of time, came up in April 2023 and the FDI rules have just been notified yesterday but announced few weeks back, now remains to bring peace to that policy, and that’s the law.

We wait for the new government to do that. Just after the new government forms, I believe that’s an action which all of us need to take. So that the space then starts getting perfectly regulated. Although a regulator today exists, the regulator does not have peace of the law. It has a backing of the policy, and from policy to law is a path we still have to cross.

In a virtual address, General Anil Chauhan, Chief of Defence Staff, Indian Armed Forces said, I can say that there is enough space for everyone to grow. I wish all the startups in space domain graduate to become unicorns and then flourish as global partners in times to come. During the last India DefSpace Symposium organized by the Indian Space Association, we saw the industry working closely with the Ministry of Defense and user stakeholders for the finalization of DefSpace Challenge winners.

Now that most of the IDEX winners have been finalized, it’s important for the users to deeply engage with the startups to facilitate and handle the technology development process so that the delivered products can meet the expectations of the services. I will call upon DRDO to deeply engage with the Indian startup community in partnership with the Indian space industry to develop cutting-edge solutions which would help reduce our technology gap vis-à-vis our adversaries.

Earlier, I had made a mention of developing a legal and academic framework for our space capabilities. There is a need to develop and update our requisite doctrines to ensure that space and cyber elements are deeply integrated at strategic, operational and tactical levels. We also need to ensure interoperability with the current and future equipment.

Capacity building in terms of both subject matter experts and advisors as well as making a technology competent workforce will be the highest priority so that we are prepared to undertake transformation which will be inescapable or reduction of space-based solutions presently under development. I’m sanguine that the three services, DRDO, industry, startups, and academia will be able to utilize this platform to discuss and come up with creative solutions to empower our nation.”

Admiral R. Hari Kumar, Chief of Naval Staff, Indian Navy addressing the Indian DefSpace Symposium 2024 organized by Indian Space Association.

Addressing the inaugural session, Chief of Naval Staff, Admiral R. Hari Kumar said, It is in our aspiration to be AtmaNirbhar and I see the biggest congruence of and convergence in action between space and the sea. The Bhartiya Nausena has resolved to be fully Atmanirbhar force by 2047 and we actively seek the support of our partners in the space industry in our relentless pursuit of the same.

In the vast expanses of the maritime domain, satellite connectivity provides us with reliable and secure communication, even in the most remote expanses of our areas of operation. High-bandwidth SATCOM links facilitate real-time voice, data and video transmission, ensuring seamless command, control, communication and coordination across diverse theaters of operation as we strive to ensure safe, secure and stable seas for all. Space technology has indeed emerged as the key enabler for bolstering maritime security through real-time and responsive maritime domain awareness, offering invaluable insight into the movement, vessel tracking, illegal fishing detection, disaster management and environment protection.

Looking ahead, synergy with the several space agencies and industry and initiatives like IDEX promised further advancements which encourage innovation and self-reliance by pooling resources across academia, industry and startups. I would encourage the space sector, MSMEs and start-ups to borrow a leaf from our successful initiatives in indigenization.

And similar to the innovations in the space sector through IDEX, Bhartiya Nausena with the aim to forward the technology curve has been working alongside MSMEs, start-ups, academia, students, innovators and dreamers through our three-tier organization under the Naval Innovation and Indigenization Organization (NIIO). By fostering collaboration and embracing emerging technologies, together we can unlock new frontiers of exploration while ensuring the safety, security and prosperity of our great nation.

Dr. Samir V Kamat, Chairman, Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), speaking at the inaugural day, “Space situational awareness, space-based surveillance, launch on demand capability  are some areas where we need to develop capabilities further, these are critical areas. And we can do this if we all work together. It is indeed very good sign, that all of us are taking space and defence collaboration seriously, this is one area which is now going to be a key focus area.

We are willing to work with startups and industry and are also willing to fund R&D in this area. IDEX already has 75 challenges, but we also have another mechanism called Technology Development Fund, where we can fund up to 50 crores. If there are any good projects where any start-ups or MSMEs are present today and if you have any good proposals, you can approach us.”

Lt. Gen. AK Bhatt, DG of Indian Space Association in his vote of thanks, emphasized on the need of focus on discussions around DefSpace challenges to take it forward and to get outcome for the users i.e the services. He also informed the audience about the recent launch of the earth observation satellite by TASL, a one to one model of which was also available in the exhibition. The DG also informed the audience of Euroconsult’s study on social impact of space initiated by ISRO.

The ongoing symposium is focusing on creating a platform for all stakeholders who have a keen interest in boosting India’s military space capability and plans. The platform brings together experts from multiple domains to discuss the latest trends and challenges in the field of defence space, making it an excellent networking opportunity for attendees from the defence, DRDO, and government sectors, as well as industry professionals to collaborate.

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