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Mainstream, VOL LVIII No 50, New Delhi, November 28, 2020

Increased Threat of Space Warfare | Bharat Dogra

Saturday 28 November 2020, by Bharat Dogra

One of the most frightening aspects of our times is that the possibility of space warfare can become a reality. Although direct space warfare has not taken place so far, militarization of space has been increasing at several levels to such an extent that space warfare is no longer confined to fiction or games and the probability of this becoming a reality within the next decade is now quite high.

Space warfare can take place in several forms. One object placed in space can attack, destroy, damage or disable another object placed in space by another country. A missile from the earth can destroy a satellite of another country in space. Or a weapon from space can destroy a target on earth. One such hostile act is likely to lead to one or more hostile acts by the affected party ( if the capacity for retaliation exists, as is likely among most leading powers and certainly the three big ones) and from here on the situation can escalate with unknown implications and results too frightening to comprehend, unless immediate control and curb steps acceptable to both or all involved parties can be immediately taken.

These possibilities of warfare will increase as rival powers try to catch up with the present-day dominance of space presence and technology by the USA. A review of space warfare possibilities published in the Scientific American by Lee Billings said, “ As China and Russia aggressively seek to challenge US superiority in space with ambitious military space programs of their own, the power struggle risks sparking a conflict that could cripple the entire planet’s space-based infrastructure. And though it might begin in space, such a conflict could easily ignite full-blown war on earth.”

The biggest danger will no doubt come if nuclear weapons or other weapons are also taken to space or used in space. This is of course strongly prohibited by the Outer Space Treaty but the way in which various disarmament treaties have been shoddily treated in recent times, one cannot be sure for how long this important aspect of this treaty will continue to be respected by the big military powers, particularly the USA.

It will be very dangerous if dominance in space from a military point of view is used by any nation to push for dominance on earth. But there are already several indications of the USA trying to move in this direction.

Over 95 per cent of countries of the world favor a strong demilitarization of space and this has already been reflected in several resolutions of the General Assembly of the United Nations. But the veto power at the Security Council comes in the way of strong directions needed for this which are acceptable to big powers.

Dr. Michio Kaku, world-renowned physicist has written, “ The weaponisation of space represents a real threat to the security of everyone on earth. ...It will greatly accelerate a new arms race in space...”

Clearly our deeply troubled world cannot afford this additional threat of space warfare and the strongest international steps should be taken immediately and with urgency to curb this threat before it is too late.

(The writer is Convener, Save the Earth NOW Campaign and its SED Demand ( demand for declaring the next decade as the decade for protecting the earth. His recent books include Protecting Earth for Children and Planet in Peril.)

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