Contrary to reports in certain Indian television channels, India’s successful Moon mission has not been trashed by British media. The Times, the Telegraph, and even the Guardian and the BBC have acknowledged India’s success in joining the elite club of nations that have landed on the Moon. India is the first nation to land on the South Pole of the Moon, a fact which has been widely reported.
The United States’ media coverage was complimentary. The usually anti-India New York Times wrote that India’s success should be a blueprint for other countries to “think big”. The Washington Post, Telegraph, and Wall Street Journal all reported India’s success without negativity. Vice President Kamala Harris, NASA Administrator Bill Nelson, and global space technology veteran and investor remarked that India had performed an “incredible feat” and congratulated the scientists and engineers involved. Johnson also praised India’s role in leading humanity towards new horizons and said, “India’s successful Moon landing will inspire not only Indian youth but also young minds everywhere.”
British High Commissioner to India Alex Ellis said, “Badhai Ho” and that it was a “giant step forward for the whole world”. The United Kingdom’s foreign secretary, James Cleverly, also sent his congratulations.
The UK Space Agency called ISRO’s achievement an “incredible moment in history” while its Director of Championing Space congratulated India on an amazing feat of engineering and perseverance. Notably, the name of the director is Anu Ojhe, OBE. Now that India and the US are going to cooperate on space research, a day when Indian scientists will be working with Indian-origin scientists in the US is not far. As it now stands, the world is becoming increasingly India-centric.
A few individuals who did express their disapproval of India’s Moon mission had two main gripes. The first was the issue of poverty. Some criticised expenditures on “vanity projects” while many people starve. The other was a demand for the UK to stop providing aid to India.
My reply is this: First, India makes a lot of money from its space projects. It has launched five payloads of satellites for the UK, the heaviest commercial mission launched using a launch vehicle assembled by the Indian Space Research Organisation. Other countries India has launched satellites for include Germany, South Korea, Norway, Switzerland, Singapore, Luxembourg, France, Japan, Canada, Austria, Denmark, Indonesia, and even the United States. Space research is therefore not a vanity project.
Second, if all countries waited for a day when there were no poor people on the planet, there would be no progress. As for aid, there is no such thing as a free lunch. It is tied to geopolitical interests. India itself provides several countries with aid. It was also the only country to distribute Covid vaccines for free. Jamaican Foreign Minister Kamina J Smith said “While others chose to withhold supplies, India’s vaccine outreach exemplified its principles of equality & mutual benefit,” and expressed gratitude for the vaccines, quieting many critics.
It is important that the Indian community in the UK and those in India do not create ill feelings towards the British, who are great admirers of the country. The Indian-origin Rishi Sunak is currently leading the UK. Sunak and PM Narendra Modi met on Saturday to strengthen relations between the two nations. False narratives can create negativity between both countries and their people. People in India must know that the British are not anti-India.