'India keen on bringing China into space negotiations'

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New Delhi, Jan.21 (ANI): Ruling Congress Party spokesperson Manish Tewari has called for "acceptable rules of the game" and "a global space coordinating agency" to prevent militarisation of space.

Delivering the valedictory address at the three-day international conference "Space, Science and Security: The Role of Regional Expert discussion", Tewari said in Asia, there are three countries with robust space programmes - China, Japan and India. He said the three countries should work together to avoid the kind of "competitive alternations" which were witnessed between the US, erstwhile USSR and the Europe.

"The need for regional and international dialogue and rules of operation cannot but be emphasized. At the regional level, it is fairly obvious that India will seek increasing cooperation with other space faring nations, most notably China, Japan, South Korea and Australia," he said.

Pointing out that New Delhi and Tokyo have already worked towards ideas for regional and bilateral cooperation, Tewari said "more such bilateral and regional initiatives are the call of our time."

"There could be several trilateral partnerships in the space domain in the near future - between India, US and Israel, and India, US and Japan. However, India will be happy to explore the possibility of bringing in China into this dialogue network," he said.

Tewari said: "China's role is critical for any of these regional measures to be successful and the potential for cooperation is immense between the two Asian giants."

Emphasizing on the need for non-discriminatory, acceptable rules of the game, Tewari said that we must learn from the follies of the Industrial Age where we left too little for the poor and the weak regions and countries.

"We cannot usurp their right to orbital real estate and we must not allow space squatting either. Rules must be framed and rights must be secured. Obligations must be charted," Tewari said.

The three-day conference, organized jointly by Observer Research Foundation, Secure World Foundation, SIPRI and Jawaharlal Nehru University, saw indepth discussions on India's space strategy, Indian civil-military relations, Asian space race, China, India and international organizations, international perspective, etc.

Miss Victoria Samson from the Secure World foundation argued that "India's increasing presence in space means that it would benefit greatly from participating in discussions on how best to preserve the global commons of space. She further argued the need for the United States, India and China to find ways to "partner on space issues and determine how best to ensure that they do not become combatants" in this frontier.

Dr. Isaac Ben Israel, the Administrator of the Israel Space Agency, said the developments of the Indian space programme is heading towards developing national security space systems. He also highlighted the implications of this for the Asian region.

Dr. Brett Biddington from Australia examined India's motivations for developing ASAT (Anti-Satellite) capabilities and examined some of the implications for the "sub-continent, for the broader global and regional security balances, for the international diplomacy of space, and specifically for Australia".

Viewing ASAT development as "a natural development of sophisticated space capabilities", Dr. Biddington said "Australia may be expected to roll any consideration of India's ASAT achievement and ambitions into a more general discussion about nuclear stability, non-proliferation and the associated discussion about missile defence".

Dr. Kazuto Suzuki from Hokkaido University, Japan gave a Japanese perspective on India's military space capabilities. Concerning the ramifications of India's developments for Japan, he argued that "despite the fact that India has loosely become a quasi-ally for Japan, security cooperation between the two has a very limited application. There is much talk but little action, due to Japan's very restrictive legal frameworks and other political commitments".

Prof. Rajaram Nagappa, a visiting professor at the International Strategic and Security Studies Programme, National Institute of Advanced Studies, spoke on 'India's Space for Security'. He said India's space programme "aids sustainable development through management of natural resources and inputs for agriculture, forestry, literacy, health, weather and disaster management".

He said "the Indian space programme is now poised towards exploration and application missions, similar to the space programmes of other nations, though the scale of operations could be different".

Dr. Rajeshwari Rajagopalan, a Senior Fellow at the ORF, highlighted the drivers of India's ASAT policy. She argued that "With [the] increasing militarization of outer space, one consequence will be an Asian arms race...As China advances its military-oriented space programmes, India will follow the suit, to ensure the security of its own assets in the space, besides, may be, to develop offensive capabilities in the space, recognising the nature of future of warfare, particularly in Asia".

Dr. Bharath Gopalaswamy (SIPRI) and Dr. Wang Ting (Post doctoral candidate at Cornell) simulated a scenario where India and China destroyed all of the others LEO (Low Earth Orbit) satellites, and presented a few models of collision of the debris field. They argued that "a space war using ASAT is a war that would be catastrophic in terms of debris to almost all LEO satellites". They also suggested that "agreements to limit testing of an ASAT weapon can be a good starting point for strengthening bilateral relations between China and India".

Dr. Lora Salmaan from The Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Beijing, highlighted how space policy discourse in China is still dominated by the scientific community. Arguing that thus far, this has made space policy amenable by making it less conflictual, she highlighted a series of confidence building measures to continue to provide the scientific community with nfluence in the decision making process. (ANI)

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