The holding of the high ground has always termed a position of advantage or superiority in the military. Sixty years after the first satellite was launched, space becomes the new military high ground that countries want to seize and dominate.
Last year, the United States signaled this by setting up a sixth branch of its military: a restored US Space Command with its own "Space Force". The Chinese created the strategic support force, the fifth part of their military in 2015, responsible for space and cyber war. This is the context in which we need to see India's somewhat cautious decision to set up a defense space agency (DSA).
Initially, space has attracted interest from a military point of view, and most space programs were militarily run. The External Space Treaty prohibits the placement of nuclear weapons in space and prohibits national appropriations of celestial objects or the construction of military installations. It does not, however, prohibit military activities in space, space-oriented military forces or the use of conventional weapons in space.
The decision to create DSA is consistent with India's Parsimonal Space Program. Likewise, it must navigate through the contradictory claims of agencies such as the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO), the Defense Agency (DIA) and the National Technical Research Office (NTRO) for the control of space-based assets.
India is the country that pioneers multitasking satellites such as the INSAT series, and in defense it is also considered appropriate to insist that various entities share assets.
In most countries, civilian applications of space were a shift of their essentially military program. India was remarkable and insisted that the program aimed to serve development goals. India has gone out of its way to make its program as transparent as possible, giving all the details of the technology it develops, its testing processes and so on.
One reason for this was the ISRO's decision to get all foreign help it could get in the pre-Missile Technology Control regime. And it got a lot of it, for a wide range of applications from space launch vehicles to sensors and satellites.
In the case of military applications, India had the Defense Research and Development Organization, which went along its own path to attempt and develop missiles. But when this did not work, they imported knowledge from ISRO in the form of A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, who helped develop SLV-3, and used the knowledge to develop the Agni series. Ultimately, India decided on a model that exploits the dual nature of many space applications.
India began exploiting space for telecommunications, remote sensing and navigation in the 1
But it was only with the Cartosat series, which began in 2005, that India got its own satellites that could provide military usable image, even though it was just a little work
Other Military Important Multitaskers are Resourcesat 2 (2011) – series, weather satellites such as SARAL (2013), OceanSat 2 (2009) and RISAT 2 (2009) and RISAT 1 (2012). So data can flow to ISRO stations or to those managed by the defense and intelligence agencies.
The DIA, established in the wake of the 2001 reforms, runs defense imaging and analysis centers, which have a satellite reception center at Gwalior to analyze satellite data. NTRO, which gained control of the military satellites, has its own station in Assam. Its mandate is to provide raw information to the Central Archival Facility so that it can be accessed by all users.
On ISRO's INSAT series, ISRO's range of telecommunications and TV broadcasting. But the first satellite dedicated to military communication, GSAT 7 (i.e. INSAT 4F), was first launched in 2013. This was to meet the needs of the Indian Navy. Then, in December 2018, it launched GSAT 7A to meet the requirements of the Indian Air Force.
In the navigation area, India has come up with its Indian regional navigation satellite system (IRNSS) to provide a GPS-like capacity for India in southern Asia and will like – the latter – also provide encrypted data for military use.
During the first decades, space was used militarily in a most passive way – to gain image, electronic intelligence and communication and navigation aids. But, increasingly, the importance of fast-encrypted communication and imagery to give awareness of combat space has become an important factor in modern warfare. So has the space systems' ability to control the fighter jet, UAV and ammunition. In fact, many military people see the use of space as crucial to their ability to fight and win wars.
So we have seen a military interest in dazzling resistance satellites, disturbing their signals or even capturing and destroying them. This is a whole new world of what is called "counter-space" assignments. The Indian AST test was just the tip of the iceberg, and a slightly outdated demonstration. Countries such as the US and China have moved to other technologies, such as ramming satellites or using land or space-based lasers to extract them.
The future environment is likely to see an even more intense use of satellites, perhaps constellations of smaller satellites, which can provide real-time information on demand. In an environment where satellites can be deactivated or neutralized, the military would have the opportunity to quickly replace them – that is, have their own launch cars and satellites.
It is not surprising that India has established a DSA. At the same time, it has also signaled a sharp increase in its space-related activities. In the next decade, ISRO will work with new rocket engines, take-off, start configurations, propulsion systems, fuel types, etc. It also hopes to launch an orbital-powered spacecraft by 2022, and recently the ISRO manager announced the goal of creating a space station by 2030.  As in other countries, many of these missions will develop technologies that have military applications.
But India has a long way to go, not just in the area of space technology – where the single AST test really does not amount to much. The challenge comes just as much from dual-use space technologies as robots to inspect, repair and discard damaged satellites, from satellites that can be armed with lasers.
India's ability to use space for military purposes is extremely limited. It has just over a dozen satellites for military purposes while China probably has 10x as many.
Imagery satellites such as Cartosat and RISAT can provide useful images, but India has a long way to go before it can have near real-time education or electronic intelligence, which is often important to maintain the pace of modern warfare.
Manoj Joshi is a Distinguished Fellow, the Observer Research Foundation.