Space militarisation refers to the ecosystem of space systems that are utilised to achieve military objectives. It involves strategic planning, surveillance and telecommunication and reconnaissance as well as real time combat through placement and development of military technology in outer space.

Space weaponisation on the other hand refers to more aggressive and offensive use of space systems for military purposes where outer space itself emerges as the battleground and weapons are placed and created in space that travel from earth to attack or destroy targets in space.

Recent Developments In The Domain

  1. China is making serious advances in weaponising the outer space creating the fourth frontier of war in space by making strides in ICBM programme.
  2. TheS. President had in the recent past announced the creation of a “space force” or a sixth branch of the American armed forces.
  3. With the launch of GSAT-7, India officially placed its first military satellite in orbit and after successful launch of Agni-V, India acquired capabilities to take down enemy satellites in low earth orbits.
  4. India recently became the fourth country after Russia, USA and China to possess the competency to take down an enemy in space. It achieved this feat by shooting down a low-orbit satellite through an anti-satellite weapon A-SAT which is a part of Mission Shakti.

Indian Perspective

  1. India is a signatory to the Outer Space treaty, and has ratified it in 1982.
  2. It supports the UNGA resolution on No First Placement of Weapons in Outer Space.
  3. It 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.
  4. India has always maintained that space must be used only for peaceful purposes and is against the weaponisation of outer space and supports international efforts to reinforce the safety and security of space based assets.
  5. It has clearly stated that it considers Mission Shakti as a step to strengthen its defence and not to wage a war.
  6. It considers the outer space as the common heritage of humanity and it is the responsibility of all pace-faring nations to preserve and promote the benefits accruing from advances made in space technology.

Effects Of Militarisation Of Space

  1. It will lead to competition and all major countries will start competing with each other and consequently resources would be diverted from the peaceful use of space for mankind to use space for deterrence.
  2. The ensuing arms race for weaponisation of outer space would create an environment of uncertainty, suspicion, competition and aggressive deployment between nations, which may lead to wars creating concerns for national and international security.
  3. It would put at risk the entire range of commercial satellites as well as those involved in scientific explorations.
  4. The optimal utility of space power cannot be realised in the absence of an integrated space command and cohesive doctrine even after such growth of competencies.
  5. Growing amounts of space debris pose a real risk to satellites and spacecraft. There are over 20,000 objects of debris which are the size of golf balls while those of smaller size run into hundreds of thousands, totalling nearly 6,000 tonnes.
  6. The militarisation of space by India would pose security challenges for its nuclear armed neighbours and the military posture in space programme might negatively impact the regional strategic stability.
  7. India is yet to establish a credible space-command of its own. Shifting focus to space would require diversion of resources from other wings. It may have to increase its defence budget to maintain deterrence in the new race.

Way Forward

  • There is no global regulatory regime to address the growing militarisation in space.
  • There is a 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.
  • It is important to develop multi-laterally negotiated controls on weapons in space through a new space treaty. This treaty should be able to notify activities, monitor, plan procedures, enforce mechanisms and ban weapons in space in the form of tests, production and deployment.
  • Effective engagement of global civil society around achievable goals and viable strategies is much needed, where many western powers mainly US oppose the initiatives.
  • At this point, the majority of States are still committed to pursuing a space weapons ban through the Conference on Disarmament, the official forum for multilateral arms control and disarmament treaty negotiations. Continued discussions on space arms control must be encouraged, particularly in the Conference on Disarmament, but also in the UN General Assembly & Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space.
  • An advocacy tool on the lines of Space Preservation act of the US Congress will go a long way to create forum for dialogues and negotiations which will mobilise various parliaments to work towards space security issues.
  • Till the time some comprehensive legislation is accepted by the major players and all the concerned stakeholders, interim measures in form of space debris management regime, and space traffic control initiatives should be adopted.
  • The earth from outer space is seen as a unified interconnected and unique ecosystem of life for which space wars and weaponisation should not be seen as a rational choice for the humanity. The 21st century should move towards peace and prosperity rather than conflicts and arms races
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