United Nations, Apr 4: India has staunchly opposed the "weaponisation" of outer space, saying it should not become an area of conflict and called for collective efforts to strengthen safety and security of the space-based assets.
Counsellor (Disarmament) in the Permanent Mission of India to the Conference on Disarmament in Geneva Rachita Bhandari told a session of the UN Disarmament Commmission (UNDC) yesterday that deliberations will begin on the new agenda of outer space - the first in the last 18 years.
"India believes that outer space should be an ever expanding frontier of cooperative endeavour rather than an area of conflict," Bhandari said.
She said India, as a space-faring nation with wide ranging interests in outer space activities, remained opposed to the "weaponisation of outer space and support collective efforts to strengthen the safety and security of space-based assets".
The group of governmental experts on outer space, which will meet in Geneva in August later this year, has been mandated to make recommendations on the substantive elements of an international legally-binding instrument on the prevention of an arms race in outer space. Bhandari pointed out that it was important that as the UNDC begins work on outer space, the work already being done on the issue in other fora is not duplicated.
"It is equally important to address the broad spectrum of space security in a comprehensive and coherent manner. While transparency and confidence- building measures are important in themselves, we believe that they cannot be a substitute for concluding substantive legal measures to ensure the prevention of an arms race in outer space, which should continue to be a priority for the international community," she said.
Bhandari said it was important that member states be given the incentive to protect their interests by investing in legally-binding multilateral instruments rather than by resorting to national measures or interim partial steps that do not fully address the concerns of all space actors. India attaches much importance to the UNDC as the specialised deliberative leg of the disarmament machinery, she said.
"At a time of growing mistrust and rising international tensions as well as numerous challenges to both the disarmament agenda and the disarmament machinery, the role of the UNDC as a platform for dialogue and cooperation assumes even greater significance," she said.
She said the rift between those who believe that nuclear weapons can be made to vanish by fiat and those who believe that nuclear weapons must be asserted even more vigorously today has only grown wider.
"We need to bridge this divide through dialogue and a renewed commitment to multilateralism," she said.
Bhandari emphasised that India remained committed to global, non-discriminatory and verifiable nuclear disarmament and the complete elimination of nuclear weapons. India has supported the proposal put forward by NAM for the Conference on Disarmament (CD) to commence negotiations on a comprehensive Nuclear Weapons Convention.
"Without prejudice to the priority we attach to nuclear disarmament, India has also supported the commencement of negotiations of an FMCT (Fissile Material Cutoff Treaty) in the CD on the basis of the agreed mandate. We have called for a meaningful dialogue amongst all States possessing nuclear weapons to build trust and confidence and for reducing the salience of nuclear weapons in security doctrines," she said.