On 17th April 2023, under India’s G20 Presidency, a two-day precursor meeting of the G20 Space Economy Leaders Meeting (SELM) was held in Shillong, Meghalaya. The purpose of this precursor event was to highlight the capabilities of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) and the Department of Space and explore avenues of multilateral space cooperation between the G20 countries.
The inaugural program of the meeting was attended by Conrad Sangma, Chief Minister of Meghalaya, Union Minister of State for Finance, Pankaj Chaudhury, Dr Jitendra Singh, Union Minister of State for Prime Minister’s Office, who sent a recorded video, G20 Sherpa Amitabh Kant, Secretary of the Department of Space Somanath S, Chairman of IN-SPACe Dr Pawan Kumar Goenka, and others.
During his speech, Chaudhury emphasised the significant contribution of the new space segment to the Indian economy’s growth. He also stressed the importance of responsibly conducting space activities and promoting new space to enhance the space economy further. As all G20 members have established space agencies and industries, he highlighted the need for India to form possible alliances.
Chaudhury further mentioned that space-based technologies, such as satellite-based earth observation, satellite communications, and navigation, positively impact various sectors, including agriculture, disaster management, transportation, health, and climate change.
Dr Jitendra Singh acknowledged India’s significant progress in the space sector and its penetration into all walks of life. He also highlighted the government’s decision to open the space sector for private industry through the 2020 Space Sector Reforms. This decision has led to increased participation of private players in end-to-end space activities, eventually resulting in an increased bequest to the global space economy.
Conrad K Sangma thanked Prime Minister Narendra Modi for his visionary decision to hold the G20 programs throughout the country. He also mentioned that Northeast India and states like Meghalaya, which had yet to see significant economic growth, have become a part of the country’s economic success.
G20 Sherpa Amitabh Kant emphasised the need for the global community to think and act as one in the journey to and through space. He reminisced the thought shared by Wing Commander Rakesh Sharma, the first Indian citizen to go to space, that there is no boundary between countries, and the world is one family where our destinies come together.
Kant spoke about the immense potential of space technology in providing digital communication services in the hardest-to-reach places and monitoring cyclones, rainfall, and crop cycles. Space-based technology solutions help nations leapfrog in socio-economic development. The G20 must recognise that they play a central enabling role in such development at the national and global levels.
S. Somanath, Chairman of ISRO, highlighted the activities of the Northeastern Space Applications Centre and its focus on solving the region’s problems across various sectors. He also mentioned ISRO’s collaboration with several countries on space missions, emphasising the need for further cooperation in the space sector to bring about positive changes worldwide.
In conclusion, the G20 Space Economy Leaders Meeting (SELM) precursor meeting highlighted the need for global cooperation and responsible space activities to harness space technology’s enormous potential for humankind’s benefit.