Sunday, November 07, 2004

Who do they think they are kidding?

An extraordinary amount of effort seems to be going in to playing down claims that the US is threatening to blow the EU’s Galileo satellite navigation system "out of the sky" (see previous Blogs).

Part of this is a letter to the Sunday Telegraph, published today, from John B Sheldon of the Centre for Defence and International Security Studies (CDISS). Referring to Booker's article last week, which claimed a confrontation between US and European officials at a recent conference, Seldon asserts that this incident never took place.

Notwithstanding that the "confrontation" occurred during a private discussion and not as part of the conference proceedings, and therefore Sheldon has no means of knowing whether it took place or not, it is interesting that he denies the incident but not the substance, the US is actually preparing measure to shoot down Galileo satellites.

The whole of this issue, however, depends on the intent or otherwise of Galileo clients to use the system for military applications. Further confirmation that this is precisely what they intend to do comes from the Indo-Asian News Service report on Indian involvement in the Galileo project:

India and the EU, it appears, are close to an agreement on joint participation in the projects and the Indian government has pledged 300 million euros in order to participate in it.

However, for that money, India has made it abundantly clear that it would expect to be an "equal partner" and just a "mere customer". "If we are putting in 300 million euros we must have a say in the control of the satellite," a senior official has said, adding: "If we don't have access to their codes we can be denied access to Galileo's signals in times of war."

In response, the EU has assured India that denial of service would occur only if there was a "global war," more or less confirming the substance of the claim that the EU would not withdraw service if weapons using the Galileo signal were targeted by China at US assets.

And, if India is objecting to the Galileo signal being withdrawn in the event of war, can anyone seriously suggest that China – which has committed 200 million euros on the project – has agreed a deal for anything less than the Indians will get? If they do, who do they think they are kidding?

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