The Democratic US Presidential candidate Joe Biden wants us to believe that he is a close friend of India. Is he? A 1992 Los Angeles Times report suggests otherwise. Back then, Joe Biden turned out to be the biggest saboteur of India’s ambitious space programme. In the 1990s, India was looking to get the Cryogenic technology from the Russian Space Agency, Glavkosmos, at $250 million, which would have played an important role in missions involving heavy satellites going deeper into Space.
However, the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee imposed a condition on the $24 billion international assistance that the US was providing to Moscow. The Senate Committee voted to block further American aid to Russia if Moscow went ahead with the $250 million deal with India. The man who moved the amendment in US aid to Russia was Joe Biden himself. Russia, which was passing through a deep economic crisis, following the Soviet breakup at the time, had to comply with the US Senate’s amendment.
Joe Biden pulled back India’s Space programme by several years if not decades. He had even called Indo-Russia agreement for the supply of two cryogenic engines to India ‘dangerous’. Biden had then said, “I am confident that the Russian leaders will recognize the wisdom of stopping this sale once they see the risk of losing their economic aid.” He had added, “this is no minor sale; this is dangerous.
Ultimately, the US allowed Moscow to supply seven Cryogenic engines to India. But no technology transfer was allowed thereby impairing India’s ambitious Space mission. India faced hurdles in developing the Cryogenic technology that involves handling fuel at low temperatures to give the extra thrust required for a rocket to carry heavy satellites into longer distances.
And what was the excuse behind denying the transfer of Cryogenic technology to India? It was argued that the sale was not in line with the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR), which is supposed to prevent the proliferation of missiles. But neither Russia nor India was an MTCR member. Also, cryogenic engines are not considered capable of being used in long-range missiles like the Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles (ICBMs).
The fact remains that the Biden-led attempt to deny Cryogenics to India had no missile angle. It was sheer geopolitical manipulation on the part of the Democrats at the time. Joe Biden tried sabotaging the Space programme of a democratic nation like India, only because he wanted to lead pro-Pakistan sentiments within the US administration at that time.
28 years hence, the US realises that Biden’s attempts have cost it heavily. Pakistan was backstabbing the US even when the likes of Biden were pushing Washington closer to Islamabad while India emerged as a major democratic-ally for the White House in the region.
India couldn’t have advanced from its main launch vehicle- the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) to the Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV) that is supposed to carry payloads of around 4 to 5 tons. Denied of foreign technology, the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) took two decades to develop indigenous Cryogenic technology.
India achieved some success with the Cryogenic technology only in December 2014 when an experimental flight of the GLSV (Mk-III) carried an indigenous Cryogenic stage similar to the one that is being used by ISRO today. The first developmental flight of the GSLV Mk-III boasting of the indigenous Cryogenic technology was launched only three years ago.
Joe Biden’s 1992 sabotage has thus inflicted massive damage upon India. Biden has single-handedly pulled India’s Space mission back by more than two decades. In fact, India needs more successful flights with GSLV (Mk-III) before the launch vehicle carrying the indigenous Cryogenic stage can be established as a commercial product.
Nonetheless, India’s Space Agency ISRO has achieved great heights and today it is counted among the top, most efficient space agencies in the world. The Indian people’s appetite for dreaming and learning about space is tremendous and cannot be bogged down by the likes of Joe Biden.
Ahead of the upcoming US Presidential polls, Biden is, of course, acting as if he is a long-time friend of India. But Biden is no friend, and in fact, he used to think that an advanced Indian Space programme would be ‘dangerous’. And his past serves as a really embarrassing secret into his animosity towards India.