Report from the Conference on 'Outer Space and Global Security', Geneva

November, 2002

From J. Sri Raman


Following are the points I would like to make on behalf of the Movement Against Nuclear Weapons (MANW), based in Chennai, India, on some of the major issues raised at this important conference on outer space and global security, particularly a future space security regime.

1.      The accelerated pursuit of the Ballistic Missile Defense (BMD) program by the United States of America, after the annulment of the US-Russian Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty of 1972, has created an urgent need for concerted global efforts for preservation of space for peace. Countries like India, which is not a major space player, have even greater cause than the developed nations for concern over the threat of space weaponization.

2.      The MANW shares the view expressed at the conference that “nothing is moving” on this front. It strongly supports moves for the negotiation and conclusion of an international treaty for prevention of space weaponization.

3.      The need of the hour is a new instrument for the purpose. Attempts to amend the original outer space treaty of the sixties may risk the loss of the important gains this treaty represented.

4.      It is commonsense, of course, that the USA cannot be excluded from efforts for preservation of weapon-free space. Ideally, the efforts should ensure that the USA, as suggested at this conference, “goes along with the rest of the world”. The key here lies in the American and world public opinion. Without the pressure of public opinion, there are severe limits to the advance that can be made in this direction. The current official US positions on the subject do not facilitate the path towards preservation of space for peace.

5.      We heard at the conference that temporary military activities in space should be acceptable, if there is an avowed and announced intent to withdraw or discontinue these activities after their purpose has been served. But then, as has been pointed out, intents are not verifiable.

6.      A proposal has been mooted for unilateral declarations by non-US, space-faring states of their resolve not to go for space weaponization. This can, certainly, be a step forward. But, in practice, this may not be possible at all without some confidence-building concession or move from the USA.

7.      In defense of space weapons, the US lead in nuclear weapons and their role in the Second World War was recalled at the conference. It is a firm view and fundamental tenet of the MANW that the tragedy of Hiroshima can never constitute a vindication of either nuclear weapons or the US lead in them. It also does not vindicate space weapons and the US lead in such weapons.

8.      The key to the whole task before us, in the MANW’s view, lies in an effective public awareness campaign. The campaign should be capable of bringing pressure to bear upon the governments of the USA and other major space-faring states. It should also be capable of pressurizing the governments of the rest of the world to act for the protection of space as the common heritage of humanity.

9.      As a journalist, I would like to point out that the media, even in its opinion columns or programs, shows extremely insufficient awareness of the subject, much less of its urgency. How exactly this is to be remedied is a fit subject for discussions among the United Nations agencies, other international agencies and NGOs.

Home Page