Thursday, March 1, 2012

The Space Code of Conduct Debate: A View from Delhi, my article in Strategic Studies Quarterly

Here's an article of mine on the space code of conduct debate, a perspective from Delhi published in the latest issue of Strategic Studies Quarterly, published by Air University, US Air Force.

While India has interests in drafting rules of the road on space issues, the EU has lost out an ideal opportunity to rope in India as a major spacefaring power to shape the debate. The “Not Invented Here” syndrome characterises, at best, India’s position on the EU Code. If the EU had to do this exercise all over again, it might be relevant to adopt an inclusive approach, bringing together all the spacefaring countries to debate and shape an instrument that is widely acceptable. India’s interests in writing the rules are driven by the fact that it has been one of the earliest space powers and therefore it should have been part of the debate. In addition, it also has interests in formulating rules that would affect and curtail certain space activities. Indian interests are also to do with the Indian economic growth story that is increasingly dependent on space utilisation.

Also certain measures, by way of narrowing down the differences, have been suggested including the idea whether states around the world can agree to an “IPCC model of experts” on space; mulling over new initiatives along the lines of International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO).

For the full article, click here.

Finally, what's the way around?

Can states around the world agree to an “Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change” model of experts to address space issues? Given that space debris or an arms race in space are universal problems confronting every nation-state, the idea of constituting a panel of experts under the aegis of the United Nations may be a good starting point. his may be the kind of inclusive mechanism India should aim for while making an effort to enlist the support of other key space-faring countries.

Obviously space traffic management is at the core of the entire issue. Countries could mull over new initiatives along the lines of the Inter­national Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO). Letting technical experts handle issues is one way to reduce political salience and competition.

Also, is the Conference on Disarmament (CD) still a relevant forum to discuss and debate space security? More than a decade has passed since the CD debated and moved forward on important security issues. Given such a track record, it is time to consider alternate venues to tackle these challenges. he ICAO model may be appropriate, since overcrowding,
industrialization, and weaponization of space and management of space traffic have become critical issues. One has to think of new platforms outside the CD, given the problems with the consensual decision-making process in the CD. Can there be
a major grouping of space-faring powers similar to the P-5 who are the nuclear weapon countries recognized by the NPT? Such a grouping might be keener on making decisions and moving forward than any other conceivable forum.

Finally, the EU has to recognize that geopolitics has significant value in determining and shaping norms and establishing practices. In this regard the geopolitical weight of Asia may be in a position to dictate new terms and conditions in formulating these norms and practices. Getting as many Asian countries as possible on board would be a major plus if the EU is keen on pushing an agenda. his is also important considering the increasing trend toward securitization of geopolitics in Asia. Therefore, the EU must listen and understand the Asian realities and concerns.

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