Like a Diamond in the Sky

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It would not be inapt to take reference from the children’s rhyme which wonders about the validity of the diamond-like shining object in the sky.

Twinkle twinkle little star, How I wonder what you are, up above the world so high, Like a diamond in the sky”.

Geospatial Intelligence (GEOINT) has become the new normal of modern warfare. The contemporary war era provides a platform for the belligerent states to elevate espionage activities against their adversaries. GEOINT is gaining popularity in the modern world for its limited personnel contact and loss. The eyes in the sky employed as the non-kinetic method of espionage for Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) work as a force multiplier for the armed forces. Spying has been a norm for the belligerent adversary states like India and Pakistan. Yet, the horizon of their espionage activities is not limited to each other, instead expands to Pakistan’s neighbour states, Iran and Afghanistan. Covertly and overtly, India has challenged the sovereignty of Pakistan using Iran and Afghan soil. In 2016, the Law Enforcement Agencies in Pakistan apprehended an Indian spy, Kulbhushan Yadav, entering Pakistan via Iran. The loss of personnel prompted to employment non-kinetic method of warfare for ISR. Over the past few years, India has launched an increased number ISR capable satellites for the armed forces establishing GEOINT in South Asia. India’s attempt to bring change in the dynamics of intelligence gathering prompts if India is reaching for the stars or will be successful in intimidating the regional adversary Pakistan.

In a desperate attempt to effectuate GEOINT in the region, India has dedicated a series of five satellites to conduct surveillance against Pakistan. It uses these satellites for intelligence gathering. The satellites of this series are exclusively used by the Indian military, which performs surveillance against Pakistan and monitors the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) developments. It is known as the Cartosat satellite series, and in common words, it is termed as Eye-in-the-Sky. CARTOSAT-1 launched on 5 May 2005, is an Observational satellite. CARTOSAT-2, launched on 10 January 2007, is capable of advanced remote sensing satellite carrying a panchromatic camera that provides scene-specific spot images. The CARTOSAT-2A that India Launched on 28 April 2008 is an Indian military satellite with a panchromatic (PAN) camera capable of capturing black and white pictures in the visible region of the electromagnetic spectrum. The CARTOSAT-2B launched on 12 July 2010, consists of a panchromatic camera mounted on the satellite that can be panned to 26 degrees to take photographs. The CARTOSAT-2C, launched on 22 July 2016, was an Indian military satellite that it ‘claims’ using it to plan the so-called ‘surgical strike’ across LOC in 2016. CARTOSAT-2D 15 February 2017 defence surveillance for military purposes similarly, the CARTOSAT-2E that India launched on 23 June 2017 has similar specifications and utilization to Cartostat-2D. Indian military’s belligerent ambitions have always been focused on Pakistan, which is now employed in space.

Geospatial intelligence in the region has garnered renewed interest in the United States in the area. The US has found a new strategic partnership with a common enemy China and India has become a pawn between world powers fighting for the global hegemony. The new strategic alliance of the US and India gave birth to Basic Exchange Cooperation Agreement (BECA), which opened the door for real-time geospatial intelligence and information sharing between both countries. BECA will form the basis of GEOINT in South Asia, with both India and the United States focusing on Pak-China cooperation in Gwadar. The United States is also interested in the Indo Pacific region. A new strategic partnership with India will ensure US presence in the region from above the world so high, Like a diamond in the sky. Signed between India’s Ministry of Defence and the US National Geospatial Agency, the agreement will enable both states of India and the US to share geospatial information and satellite data. This geospatial information will include intelligence reports and satellite data inputs of landscape and battlefield. The agreement will help India acquire real-time access to American geospatial intelligence to enhance accuracy for automated systems and weapons like missiles and armed drones. The access to satellite data and satellite-linked communication in real-time will reduce the time taken for data sharing and transferring.

The increased militarization of outer space has made identifying celestial bodies from artificial satellites difficult. The military capable satellites working as the eyes and ears of a state’s military force add to the espionage activities influencing the security architecture. Geospatial intelligence intends to revolutionize conventional intelligence gathering. The military modernization and employment of military technologies in outer space open nascent space states to the vulnerability of adversaries’ attacks. In modern times where alternative technologies play a significant in warfare, the unconventional approach toward intelligence, reconnaissance and surveillance is inevitable. The growing number of “spy satellites” placed in outer space is alarming. The focus of space powers like India on employing recon satellites in a strategically fragile region of South Asia directs toward the offensive measures that add to the regional instability. The case of Kulbhushan Yadav openly tells the espionage storey between India and Pakistan; hence it is important to analyze the technical aspect of intelligence gathering. The paranoid behaviour of India shines through the military modernization drive, where it desperately attempts to ward off the element of “surprise”. India using the US as an aide for the GEOINT intends to intimidate Pakistan. While, to an extent, it might be able to pierce through the non-kinetic security walls of Pakistan, India is far from stealing the “surprise” element.

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