Conquest war of space
1. The future of space is nearing a crossroads in which, will the 50-year tradition of international cooperation and space sanctuary prevail; or, will the fear of military and/or economic domination drive nations to compete aggressively for primacy in the ultimate high ground. Further, with the dual use capability of most intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance (ISR) satellites and the rapid commercialisation of space, it would be more prudent for nations to migrate more of the dedicated military missions onto the commercial satellites in order to decrease dependence on a handful of dedicated military satellites and thus obviate the need for space-based weapons to protect key satellites. Instead of turning to the sledgehammer of space weaponisation to deal with the potential vulnerabilities of space assets, a more sensible approach would combine arms control efforts with the technical hardening and shielding of as many satellites as possible, plus space situation awareness, redundancy and other 'passive' defence means, apart from building up own offensive and defensive means for space based assets. Progress in nuclear disarmament, strengthening the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation, negotiating a nuclear weapons convention, further efforts to restrict missile proliferation, building on the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) and the Hague Code of Conduct Against Ballistic Missile Proliferation (HCoC) would also contribute to security and reduce the chances of space becoming a battleground.
2. The issues regarding space security may be addressed with the following strategies: Forge alliances within the military, political and industrial sectors, especially with powerful countries like United States, Russia, Japan and China, using technical expertise and cognitive strategies aimed at diminishing support for space weaponisation and shaping interests in the direction of identifying both our own security needs and international security. Strengthen the possibility of a space weapons ban, by encouraging knowledge-sharing and the development of a coherent, objective and multi-layered approach. The objective of space security needs to be promoted in terms of a non-weaponised architecture, with a code of conduct regulating space activities to enhance the security of space assets and current and future non-offensive uses and activities. Unify as large a group of states as possible behind a coherent concept for a space security treaty, preferably through building a strong partnership of governments and civil society experts, advocates and activists. Maximize the effective engagement of global civil society around achievable goals and viable strategies. There is nothing wrong with motivating public action through images that make people afraid, if the threats and risks underlying the fears are well founded. In the case of space weaponisation or war, the dangers cannot be predicted and must not be underestimated. Future exploration and the peaceful uses of space could be irrevocably damaged. Life on Earth could be harmed in unpredictable and far reaching ways. It is time to create new partnerships between governments, industry, space users and explorers, and informed concerned citizens to get this message across to the wider public and their political representatives.
3. Many of the perceived vulnerabilities of space assets can be addressed in other ways. At present, no one but the United States and to some extent Russia and China have the capability, intention and resources to pose a significant risk to space-based assets. However a few states with their technological potential are likely to pose a future threat to our space assets. Most of these are prioritising financial or technical resources to developing weapons capable of threatening space assets, and at the same time all states are more interested in building or maintaining cooperative alliances with the superpower. If US military developments in space continue their drive towards weaponization, other governments may feel under pressure to devote political, financial and technological resources to counter or offset US space-based superiority. Before such expensive and dangerous military responses become necessary. A number of governments and NGOs are exploring legal, political and diplomatic ways to address space security and weapons. When considering what is desirable and feasible, three considerations are important: the current legal situation and what is already being addressed; realistic political possibilities in the near future; and what would need to be done to create the political conditions for addressing space security more effectively. Possible approaches fall into five broad categories: confidence-building measures; utilizing existing legal instruments; partial measures; national and regional approaches; and comprehensive approaches, including treaty negotiations. In examining these options, the argument that our own space exploration and means to keep our own assets safe will take a back seat is incorrect. We have to take a comprehensive approach that would incorporate most of these elements and at the same time address space security issues.
4. Faced with a decision on deployment that might come sooner rather than later. India has to think about how to respond to this extraordinary issue on the security agenda of the 21st century. Main options that are available:
(a) Fairly Comprehensive Prohibition. A ban of space weapons would halt the potential for an arms race. The disadvantage is that it may constrain states if a situation arises and a state decides to abrogate a ban. A legal regime would ideally be negotiated in an international forum such as the United Nations Conference on Disarmament. One possible solution is for a country like India, which supports the prohibition of space weapons is to host a treaty conference for interested nations. This model was followed successfully in the so-called 'Ottawa Process', which led to the successful Ottawa Land Mines Treaty. Means of verification for monitoring compliance would be vital to the successful implementation of a prohibition. In this regard, much could be learned from the Chemical Weapons Convention. A great challenge, however, would be to establish effective sanctions against violations of the treaty. Without sanctions, it is difficult to achieve credible commitments to the legal regime, which jeopardizes international co-operation.
(b) Legal Regime. An international agreement on space weapons analogous to the International Law of Sea could be created. This could lead to a stable situation that avoids the earlier pitfalls. It could require an international regime backed up by global, real-time monitoring. The downside is that it is not concrete and might be overtaken by events.
(c) No Regime. In this current state of uncertainty, the global security in the mid-term future is unclear. The major concern is the potential for an arms race in space. Without establishing the rules of the road, even the lead nations are subject to consequences, especially in a domain as potentially asymmetric as space. In essence, the challenge is to manage space in a way that avoids the 'tragedy of the commons'. Placing weapons in space is not the inevitable outcome of the use of space for commercial purposes.
5. Judging by the conditions that exist today, it is imperative on a country like India to continue its development process and produce means of safeguarding its assets in space. Failing this other nations especially our neighbours would always be one step ahead of us, in putting us down in any state to state conflict whether physical or electronic. The development of such a capability of weaponisation of space to ensure the safety of our own assets in space under the Space Command at New Delhi would go a long way.
Notes and References
'Security Without Weapons In Space: Challenges And Options'- Rebecca Johnson; available at- http://www.space.gov/docs/fullreport.pdf; accessed last on 01 Oct 09.
 'Space Weapons: The Urgent Debate'- William Marshall, George Whitesides, Robert Schingler, Andre Nilsen & Kevin Parkin; Belfer Centre for Science and International Affairs, Kennedy School, Harvard University, 79 JFK St., Cambridge, MA 02138; ISYP Journal on Science and World Affairs, Vol. 1, No. 1, 2005 19-32; available at - http://www.student-pugwash.org/journal/0101/0101_marshall.pdf; accessed on 30 Sep 09.
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