7 PM | Militarization and Weaponization of Outer Space | 5 April, 2019


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Context

After the ASAT test, India expects to play a role in the future in the drafting of international law on prevention of an arms race in outer space in its capacity as a major space faring nation with proven space technology.

What is weaponization of outer space

  • The weaponization of space includes placing weapons in outer space or on heavenly bodies as well as creating weapons that will transit outer space or simply travel from Earth to attack or destroy targets in space. Examples include the placing of orbital or suborbital satellites with the intention of attacking enemy satellites
  • The weaponization of space is different from the militarization of space, which includes using space-based assets for C4ISR (Command, Control, Communications, Computers, Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance).
  • The militarization of space assists armies on the conventional battlefield, whereas via the weaponization of space, outer space itself emerges as the battleground, sometimes referred to as the “fourth frontier of war.

International effort to control weaponization of space

Although no comprehensive treaty about space weapons is in effect, a legal framework does exist. Though India, China and Russia have advocated the need for formulating a comprehensive treaty for preventing outer space from becoming a domain for testing destructive devices, USA has refused to be a part of such a treaty. Some relevant international treaties that address aspects of the space weapons issue are

  1. Outer Space Treaty, 1967: The Outer Space Treaty prohibits only weapons of mass destruction in outer space, not ordinary weapons.
Outer Space Treaty, 1967 includes the following principles:
the exploration and use of outer space shall be carried out for the benefit and in the interests of all countries and shall be the province of all mankind;
• outer space shall be free for exploration and use by all States;
• outer space is not subject to national appropriation by claim of sovereignty, by means of use or occupation, or by any other means;
• States shall not place nuclear weapons or other weapons of mass destruction in orbit or on celestial bodies or station them in outer space in any other manner;
• the Moon and other celestial bodies shall be used exclusively for peaceful purposes;
• astronauts shall be regarded as the envoys of mankind;
• States shall be responsible for national space activities whether carried out by governmental or non-governmental activities;
• States shall be liable for damage caused by their space objects; and
• States shall avoid harmful contamination of space and celestial bodies.

 

  1. Limited Test Ban Treaty of 1963: It prohibits nuclear tests and any other nuclear explosions in the atmosphere or outer space
  2. Astronauts Rescue Agreement of 1968: It requires the safe return of astronauts and objects launched into space to their country of origin;
  3. Liability Convention of 1972: It establish procedures for determining the liability of a state that damages or destroys space objects of another state;
  4. Registration Convention of 1976: It requires the registration of objects launched into space
  5. Moon Agreement of 1984: It took the first steps to establish a regime for exploiting the natural resources of space.

India’s Traditional Position on Space Militarization

  • India’s traditional policy was to oppose any indication of militarization of space, including criticizing programs such as missile defence and ASAT programs.
  • India has repeatedly sought a ban on space weapons at the UN and other international for a such as the Conference on Disarmament (CD).
  • Much of this criticism was related to what were perceived as weaponization of space or to active use of space technologies for military purposes in missile defense and ASAT programs rather than to the passive use of space for purposes such as surveillance or communication, even for military purposes.India is a party to all the major international treaties relating to Outer Space. India already implements a number of Transparency and Confidence Building Measures (TCBMs) such as

India is a party to all the major international treaties relating to Outer Space. India already implements a number of Transparency and Confidence Building Measures (TCBMs) such as

• India is signatory to Outer Space Treaty,1967 and ratified it in 1982. The Outer Space Treaty prohibits only weapons of mass destruction in outer space, not ordinary weapons.
• India supported UNGA resolution 69/32 on No First Placement of Weapons on Outer Space
• India supports the substantive consideration of the issue of Prevention of an Arms Race in Outer Space (PAROS) in the Conference on Disarmament where it has been on the agenda since 1982.
• India register space objects with the UN register and follow pre-launch notifications measures in harmony with the UN Space Mitigation Guidelines,
• Participate in Inter Agency Space Debris Coordination (IADC) activities with regard to space debris management,
• Part of SOPA (Space Object Proximity Awareness and COLA (Collision Avoidance) Analysis and numerous international cooperation activities, including hosting the UN affiliated Centre for Space and Science Technology Education in Asia and Pacific.

  • Although, the use of space technology for national development has been part of Indian policy, driven by a deep-seated sense of the importance of exploiting space for national development.
  • India launched Integrated Guided Missile Development Program (IGMDP), a more structural civil-military linkage in India’s space program
  • The Chinese ASAT test in 2007 aggravated India’s security concerns and catalyzed the establishment of an Integrated Space Cell within the Ministry of Defense.
  • India now joins the select quartet of countries in the world possessing the ability to project hard power in space along with the United States, Russia, and China.

Way forward

There is no global regulatory regime to address the growing militarisation in space which compel India to develop deterrence for the security of its space-based assets. Anti-satellite technology has so far been in the hands of very few countries: United States, Russia and China. The acquisition and demonstration of this technology make India a member of an elite group of countries.

India expects to play a role in the future in the drafting of international law on prevention of an arms race in outer space including inter alia on the prevention of the placement of weapons in outer space in its capacity as a major space faring nation with proven space technology. India was not considered a nuclear weapons state during Non-proliferation treaty because it did not test before January 1968.

Along with international law, there is need of separation between civilian and military use of outer space, international co-operation, free exchange of ideas across borders and import of technologies and products to bring transparency and to build confidence among nations.


Source: https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/editorial/outer-clarity/article26737897.ece

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