Anew dimension of security in space has generated concerns especially after the Anti Satellite (ASAT) test by China. Evidently, prominent security related think tanks in the west, found it fruitful to deliberate on the issue at some length among Indian strategic community. Therefore, a conference on “Space Science and Security” was held at the Observer Research Foundation (ORF), New Delhi in collaboration with SIPRI (Stockholm International Peace Research Institute), SWF (Secure World Foundation) and JNU (Jawahar Lal Nehru University). A participation by SIPRI undoubtedly, is note worthy in view of its stature in the global community as an institution devoted to studies related to current and evolving security syndromes.
The conference had opened on 19th January 2011 at the premises of ORF and a mélange of thinkers and scholars namely eminent ex -diplomat Rasgotra (ORF), Swaran Singh( China studies JNU), Ian Anthony ( SIPRI) and Ray Williamson ( SWF), had set the pace at the initiation of the proceedings. The erstwhile IAF Chief and eminent test pilot Air Chief Marshal S. Krishnaswamy, had delivered the keynote address. He eulogised the beauty and vastness of space and wanted that it was important to have a feel of what space is when engaging in discussions regarding its equitable and secure utilisation when limited space explorations gave us only a hint of the unfathomable. Hubble and other telescopes aided in the discovery of galaxies that dwarf the Milky Way in size, give a more accurate perspective on the human race, planet earth and the solar system.
He argued that given our relative insignificance, discussions on weaponisation of space seem trivial. It was regrettable he recognised, that human exploration of space began as a means to demonstrate hegemony in the context of the Cold War. Aviation on the other hand came about out of with a sense of adventure. Unfortunately this technology too was soon used for destructive purposes beginning in the World War I. “The art of killing” through air warfare has reached startling levels of sophistication. Human attitudes mattered the way our behaviour is structured, and given this paradigm, we must find ways to come together and work to a peaceful end.
He warned of the dangers that often come with technological advancements when combined with conflicting national interests. He recognised that the Outer Space treaty has flaws that could lead to weaponisation of space and feared that these perhaps exist to serve a purpose; efforts needed to be made to plug them. A Gandhian approach should guide us in this endeavour with a strong policing force in the UN. The consequences of letting preponderance manifest itself in space can have disastrous consequences for several actors. A stronger legal framework was necessary in his view to ensure that space fairing nations engage with each in non threatening and mutually reassuring ways.
In the valedictory address, Manish Tewari, spokesperson for the congress party, speaking in his personal capacity, argued that the proceedings of this space conference highlight the urgency with which the polity and the research community need to study the area of space security. In the space age, weather monitoring, agriculture, telecommunications, security and the science of space at large were to be the differentiators between success and failure. He suggested that harnessing the resources and opportunities that space has to offer will certainly generate new complexities in international relations. He accepted that the race for space will only get more intense as time goes on, and if this century is going to be an Asian century, Asian nations must find ways to secure their interests in space.
Tiwari stressed that for policy makers and scientists in India, space offers a new frontier of co-operation. Advancements in space technologies that could in the near future, help millions of people hedge against the perils of varying climate for millions , and advancements in telecommunications that will help blur the divisions between people should be incentive for nations to develop peaceful capabilities. He emphasised that India’s intentions in developing space capabilities draw on such desires and are therefore, peaceful and space warfare could threaten non-combatant countries.