The former head of India's air force yesterday called on the international community to amend the international Outer Space Treaty to further prohibit the militarization of space, Asian News International reported (see GSN, July 14, 2010).
"India would like to appeal to [the] international community to see what holes must be plugged" in the Treaty on Principles Governing the Activities of States in the Exploration and Use of Outer Space, Including the Moon and other Celestial Bodies, retired Air Marshal S. Krishnaswamy said in a speech at a New Delhi symposium on outer space.
"We also need a strong policing force in the U.N. If somebody crosses the line, we need to bring [them] down quickly," he told the audience.
Member nations to the treaty "undertake not to place in orbit around the Earth any objects carrying nuclear weapons or any other kinds of weapons of mass destruction, install such weapons on celestial bodies, or station such weapons in outer space in any other manner."
"The moon and other celestial bodies shall be used by all states parties to the treaty exclusively for peaceful purposes," according to Article 4 of the agreement. "The establishment of military bases, installations and fortifications, the testing of any type of weapons and the conduct of military maneuvers on celestial bodies shall be forbidden. The use of military personnel for scientific research or for any other peaceful purposes shall not be prohibited. The use of any equipment or facility necessary for peaceful exploration of the moon and other celestial bodies shall also not be prohibited."
However, the treaty by implication permits some military operations such as the movement through space of intercontinental and intermediate-range ballistic missiles, Krishnaswamy said.
"The authors of the treaty have left some gaps in the treaty. And probably with a sense of purpose. After all, law is very clever," he said.
Additionally, the pact fails to adequately the deployment of conventional weapons in space, according to the former air chief said.
"The treaty also allows testing of all weapons in space and floating military bases," Krishnaswamy said. "There is no ban on antisatellite, antimissile weapons as the treaty says outer space is free for all nation states."
"We all should get together and work for peaceful use of space," he argued.
"If something bad (from space) happens, it will be devastating. Indeed, the Earth will burn off" (Asian News International/OneIndia.com, Jan. 19).