Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) has reported the successful launch of its RISAT-2B (Radar Imaging Satellite-2B). As the satellite is capable of taking high-resolution images of the earth’s surface even in cloudy conditions, it boosts our surveillance capabilities. The technology that it employs, its “synthetic aperture radar", is said to use radio signals bouncing off the terrain or water surface below to form “images". These signals are of a large wavelength and are not hindered by clouds or other such obstacles in the way.
Although it will find application in agriculture, forestry and disaster management support, the boost it gives military surveillance is perhaps what it’ll be noted for. An enhanced eye in the sky was sorely needed, according to strategy analysts. Although we don’t have as many surveillance satellites as China does, we can afford to boldly go where we haven’t gone before in this realm simply because we have backing in the form of anti-satellite capability. This puts New Delhi in a relationship of Mutually Assured Deterrence with Beijing. If China shoots down an eye-in-the-sky of ours, we can down one of theirs in retaliation. Best, then, for neither side to embark on any misadventure up there.
Yet, we must not rest on our laurels, or forget that intelligence inputs today go far beyond what technology can provide. While we equip ourselves better to keep watch of all the land, sea, air and space that matters to our security, we must not lose sight of the basics: good old “human intelligence".