Through newly accessible archival materials, this essay recovers a particular moment in the birth of the Indian space program when its principal architects sought to leverage US commitment to Indian development to create the technical know-how for an Indian television broadcasting satellite. This commitment was manifested in modernization theorists’ belief in the role of modern media as an enabler of development in India. Simultaneously, the US State Department orchestrated a program of assistance to India on space-related matters as a foil against India’s nuclear ambitions in the wake of the Chinese possession of the bomb. Both strategies were instruments of US ideological posturing in the developing world, a convergence of interventions that provided the perfect opportunity for Indian actors to seize the initiative and establish a foothold for a space program through an experiment that linked space activities with an egalitarian ethos. Thus, we see here the production of knowledge contained in a space whose meaning could be freely altered to contain a variety of incongruences (global, local, civilian, military, etc.) that were deeply emblematic of the encounter in the late twentieth century between elite Indian scientific and technological actors and the forces of modernization.

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