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The leaders of veteran allies Russia and India agreed Monday to launch a joint unmanned mission to the moon during Kremlin talks on boosting military and trade ties.

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh announced the plan after talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin during which the two discussed projects for a more than twofold increase in trade by the end of the decade.

“The symbol of our cooperation is the joint agreement to send an unpiloted space ship to the moon for scientific investigation,” Singh said in comments broadcast on Russian state television after the meeting.

Russia’s space agency Roskosmos said it had signed an agreement with the Indian space agency for joint lunar exploration through 2017, including the construction of a module that will orbit the moon “for peaceful purposes.”

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China launched its first lunar probe Wednesday. Japan sent an orbiter up last month. India is close behind. It’s an economic competition with military undertones.

As the rocket carrying China’s first lunar probe blasted off Wednesday evening, it left in its wake a vapor trail of questions about the nature of Asia’s new space race.

The continent’s giants are jockeying for position beyond the earth’s atmosphere. Japan launched its own moon orbiter last month. India plans to send a similar satellite up next year. The dawn of the Asian space age, however, has been darkened by suspicion, instead of cooperation.

“This means more competition because of the lingering security concerns all three countries have about one another,” says Bates Gill, director of the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute. “Because of the military relevance of space missions and technology, real cooperation will be difficult.”

The moon shots, all designed to learn more about the lunar atmosphere and surface, have no military purpose, officials in the three new space powers are quick to point out. But in a field where civilian technological advances can easily be put to military use, nations closely scrutinize each of their neighbors’ steps forward.

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In Washington these days, people talk a lot about the collapse of the bipartisan foreign policy consensus that existed during the Cold War. But however bitter today’s disputes are about Iraq or the prosecution of the so-called global war on terrorism, there is one bedrock assumption about foreign policy that remains truly bipartisan: The United States will remain the sole superpower, and the guarantor of international security and global trade, for the foreseeable future. In other words, whatever else may change in the decades to come, the 21st century will be every bit as much of an American century as the 20th.

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The World Factbook – India

Diplomacide Mothballed

Diplomacide has been mothballed.
December 2017
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