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Mainstream, VOL LIII No 36, August 29, 2015

Draft Code of Behaviour in Outer Space: Why it Needs to be Thwarted

Monday 31 August 2015, by Benjamin Todd

The US is seeking to persuade the Government of India to support its initiative to pass the West’s draft Code of Behaviour in Outer Space. This document militates against India’s national interests.

If this document, proposed by the Americans and European Union, is passed in the UN General Assembly, it will completely ruin the idea of a comprehensive binding agreement in this important sphere and replace it with a Code. The draft includes references to the American and Europeen defence and security doctrines that give them exclusive rights to impose political and economic sanctions whenever they find those necessary in their own selfish interests.

The Code intends to provide all rights to private companies to operate in outer space and these companies are supposedly excluded from all international bindings and responsi-bilities and hence can be employed in the same manner as the so-called private military units (the notorious Black Waters and others of the same kind) are used in illegal operations across the globe.

The Code is certain to limit the participation of the developing countries in space progra-mmes as it demands high technical and financial standards from every project. It is aimed at ensuring the Westerners’ superiority in outer space regardless of the interests of newcomers like India in this specific field.

The draft does not prohibit tests of anti-satellite weapons on one’s own concrete ‘targets’. This means that such weapons are to be developed on the pretext of these tests. China has already conducted these tests and will definitely utilise this opportunity to develop those weapons further. This poses a real threat to the Indian space programme.

Against this background, India needs to demonstrate solidarity with other developing countries on the issue in international organisations (BRICS, ASEAN etc.) to jointly defend their rights for space programmes. New Delhi can restore its position as a world leader by protecting the rights of the developing countries. Additionally, it can in this way reinforce its aspirations for a larger role in international affairs including securing a permanent seat in the UN Security Council.