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Debate on Space Code of Conduct: An Indian Perspective

  • Rajeswari Pillai Rajagopalan

    As the debate for a Space Code of Conduct gains momentum, there is a need to frame a code that is acceptable to all space-faring nations. This Paper assesses the concerns of Asian countries, especially India, on the code proposed by the European Union


   2011 Observer Research Foundation. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means without permission in writing from ORF

Establishing of an international code of conduct on space is gaining momentum with two codes—the EU Code of Conduct for Outer Space Activities (hereafter EU Code) and the Model Code of Conduct, prepared by the Stimson Center—being keenly debated in relevant fora. The underlying assumption of the West has been that establishing certain ground rules would eliminate the security concerns regarding outer space which is increasingly getting crowded and contested.

A formal adoption of the EU Code by the US even at a later date could step up pressure on India and other Asian space-faring nations to fall in line and adopt the code. Therefore, it is imperative that India and other spacefaring nations debate the utility of a Code in general while examining the provisions of the EU code that might hamper the legitimate interests of Asian countries. They could work to re-shape the current Code or, more ambitiously, even frame a Code of their own. A code that India and other Asian nations frame might not be very different from the EU code, but it would emerge from an Asian perspective.

Therefore, as a first step, India needs to push forward its concerns and options to the European Union and the United States in an emphatic manner, with a clear message that India will not get on board as an afterthought. The West has to take note of the Indian concerns and give due consideration to a modified code. Meanwhile, India should push for greater dialogue with other space-faring countries in Asia, including Japan and Australia, to shape up their concerns and views on a code in accordance with the emerging security scenario in Asia.

Among the two codes, it is the EU Code which is of particular significance given that it was supposed to come up for adoption in 2012. However this deadline has been put off for a while, thereby providing an opportunity for India and other Asian countries to debate the utility of a code in the first place and thereafter study the EU Code and the utility of its universalisation. The US, on its part, appears to be in agreement with the broad sentiments of the EU Code although there are certain sections of the American political class who feel that the US would be “giving away too 2 much” by a formal adoption of the EU code. In an analysis on the US stance on the Code, Michael Listner points out that the US may defer a formal adoption till other countries elucidate their positions.

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Rajeswari Pillai Rajagopalan

Rajeswari Pillai Rajagopalan

Dr Rajeswari (Raji) Pillai Rajagopalan is the Director of the Centre for Security, Strategy and Technology (CSST) at the Observer Research Foundation, New Delhi.  Dr ...

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Rajeswari Pillai Rajagopalan

Rajeswari Pillai Rajagopalan