Welcome address by Jayant Prasad, DG IDSA
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  • Welcome address by Jayant Prasad, DG IDSA at the Workshop of the McGill Manual on International Law Applicable to Military Uses of Outer Space (MILAMOS), June 21, 2017

    Professor Dale Stephens, Professor Ram Jakhu, Dr. Pankaj Sharma, distinguished guests & delegates,

    I would like to extend to all of you a warm welcome to New Delhi and to the MILAMOS workshop. The Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses is happy to collaborate with the McGill Centre for Research in Air and Space Law and the University of Adelaide Research Unit on Military Law and Ethics on their important international project on developing a Manual on International Law Applicable to Military Uses of Outer Space. Such collaboration is facilitated by participation from experts from across the world in their personal capacity – an approach that is conducive for reaching a result that is unprejudiced and independent.

    Set up in 1965, IDSA is a think-tank dedicated to objective, policy-relevant studies on all aspects of defence and security. We undertake research both on area studies and thematic issues. Space Security is an important area of enquiry in our Institute. It is natural, therefore, that issues concerning the relevance of international law applicable to the military uses of outer space should also interest us.

    The vocation of the MILAMOS Project, to objectively articulate existing international law applicable to the military uses of outer space – in peacetime and in times of armed conflict – is congruent with IDSA’s efforts in this direction.

    Exactly five decades from the date the Outer Space Treaty being opened for signatures, on 27th January this year, the Institute published a volume of essays, edited by Dr Ajey Lele, entitled ‘50 Years of the Outer Space Treaty: Tracing the Journey’. The book explores the contemporary relevance of the Treaty by examining aspects of the legal arrangements enabled by it, as well as their strengths and limitations. It includes contributions from experts of the major space-faring nations on how to take forward the Treaty mechanism, since any threat to space-based assets will be detrimental to development and security. Dr. Lele has ensured that a copy of this book is made available to all the delegates at the workshop.

    It was about ten years ago that the Institute sharpened its focus on space security issues. Among its very first initiatives was to set up a Working Group on Space Security in collaboration with the Indian Pugwash Society. The published report was titled ‘Space Security – Need for a Proactive Approach’. The lead expert for that venture was Dr Arvind Gupta, who will deliver today’s keynote address.

    The Institute has brought out, since then, a number of books on different aspects of space security and global cooperation in association with renowned international scholars. In 2012, Dr Ajey Lele edited a work on ‘Decoding the International Code of Conduct for Outer Space Activities’, and in 2013, authored a book entitled The Asian Space Race.

    This is not an audience that needs to be convinced on the need to preserve outer space as part of the global commons due to its role in both civilian and military areas. For India, satellites establish connectivity, promote literacy, provide health security, improve navigation and meteorological services, optimise the management of natural resources, and help in coping with extreme weather events and natural disasters.

    The importance of space assets for military purposes has been amply demonstrated since the 1991 Gulf War. The nature of the battlefield has further evolved with net-centricity thereafter. In the coming days, the dependence of the armed forces on satellites for the purposes of reconnaissance, communications, and navigation shall increase manifold. The next wars will have a strong space presence. Indeed, outer space might provide a preferred medium for fighting future wars. The blurred delineation between the militarisation and weaponisation of space is, therefore, a matter of increasing concern. A ‘just environment’ for the conduct of operations in outer space has become an even more pressing matter.

    India began its modest space programme in the 1960s, by undertaking sounding rocket experiments and has since come a long way. The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) has recently undertaken missions to the Moon and Mars. India’s cost-effective Mars Orbiter Mission has just completed 1000 days in the orbit of the red planet. Brian De Palma’s 2000 movie, Mission to Mars, had a production budget of $100 million. ISRO’s Mars Mission cost Rs.450 crores, or just under $70 million.

    India set a record, earlier this year, by launching into orbit as many as over a hundred satellites in one go, and is now developing its own regional navigation system. Although India’s armed forces and its nuclear deterrent requires assistance from the ‘eyes and ears in space’, India harbours no ambition of weaponising space in any form.

    Indeed, India is using its expertise in outer space for the purposes of cooperation and constructive engagement with its partner countries. In 2009, it started a Pan-African e-Network project that connects the 53 members of the African Union through a satellite and fibre-optic network to India and among themselves to enable access and exchanges in tele-education, tele-medicine, VOIP, resource-mapping, and the provision of e-commerce and e-governance services. India launched G-SAT-9, the South Asia Satellite on 5th May 2017 to assist its neighbours with a range of communication services within their territories. We need to collectively and inventively find ways of converting a potential arena of armed conflict into a frontier of partnerships.

    Meanwhile, a new ‘Space Age’ is propelling the private space industry in many parts of the world. The joint venture of Lockheed Martin and Boeing, the United Launch Alliance, is building future launch systems. SpaceX and Blue Origin are building re-usable orbital class rockets and space vehicles. And firms like Planetary Resources and Deep Space industries have gone into asteroid prospecting and mining.

    Over the past two to three years, there has been a mushrooming of venture-capital funded space start-ups. According to Goldman Sacks, in 2015 there was more venture-capital infusion in space projects than in the preceding 15 years. A young woman entrepreneur from Bengaluru, Susmita Mohanty, has co-founded Earth2Orbit, India’s first private space start-up.

    With a rise in the number of countries that have a stake in space, and are benefiting from the peaceful use of space technologies, there is an ever-increasing need to develop an international legal regime that will prevent the weaponisation of space.

    While taking comfort from the fact that, compared to the situation prevailing around the time of the 1967 Outer Space Treaty, or the 1979 Moon Agreement, the civilian uses of outer space have exponentially expanded, and the proportion of space assets deployed for military purposes has proportionately declined, even so, risks have significantly increased due to a growing dependence on space assets. Moreover, the war fighting and destructive capacity of offensive space systems have become bigger. Questions concerning the applicability of International Humanitarian Law – and the principles of precaution, proportionality, and distinction – to attacks on space assets that are critical for the daily life and well-being of non-combatants have, consequently, become even more acute.

    Another complex issue to address while exploring the legal regime of outer space in times of armed conflict is the crossover between space security, cybersecurity, and deterrence, including nuclear deterrence. Space assets can be destroyed as much by ASAT weapons as by cyber-attacks, resulting in catastrophic consequences for humankind.

    The legal frameworks provided by the existing treaties are insufficient for meeting the present challenges. With the testing of Anti-Satellite Technologies (ASAT) and availability of silent, debris-less cyber weapons that can incapacitate satellites, there is a need to deepen the multilateral discourse on space security. The ASAT tests not only threaten other satellites directly, but also adversely affect their safety by creating a huge amount of space debris.

    Against this sobering background, a renewed multilateral push in the Conference of Disarmament for a legally-binding instrument on outer space is very much required. While working towards that objective, the MILAMOS project should prove to be a useful exercise. Such an effort will help in strengthening the space rules and laws, and make outer space more securely accessible to mankind.

    I once again welcome you to India, and am confident that you shall have fruitful exchanges over the next couple of days, taking your project forward. I shall now request Mr Arvind Gupta, India’s Deputy National Security Adviser, to deliver the Keynote Address.