Statement by Mr. D.B. Venkatesh Varma, Ambassador and Permanent Representative of India to the Conference on Disarmament at the UNIDIR Space Security Conference in Geneva on April 28, 2016

Mr. Chairman,

Our appreciation to UNIDIR for carrying forward this conference series and States as well as NGOs and foundations which have continued to provide support. It is a pleasure to provide a national perspective of India at this session.

2.       India is a major space faring nation and its spaceprogramme has both developmental and security dimensions. We have ahighly successful space launch vehicle programme, with per kg launch-cost among the most cost effective in the world. We have international cooperation with 36 countries and three international organizations, with focus on satellite launch, navigation, remote sensing, agriculture and natural disaster management and other applications. We are building a satellite for the SAARC region.  We have sent a space craft to the Moon. India’s Mars Orbiter Mission has completed 16 months in orbit, after it was placed in orbit in the very first attempt, India being the only country to do so.  In September last year, India’s first space based observatory for multi-wave length observations- ASTROSAT was launched. Today, a few hours ago, India successfully put in orbit the last of a set of seven satellites that will provide regional navigation services of very high accuracy. 

3.       Outer Space should be an expanding frontier of cooperative activity. This places a responsibility on all space-faring nations to contribute to international efforts to safeguard outer space as the common heritage of humankind and preserve and promote the benefits flowing from advances made in space technology and its applications for all. We are against the weaponization of Outer Space and support international efforts to reinforce safety and security of space based assets.

4.       India is party to all the major international treaties relating to Outer Space. We believe that this international legal framework needs to be strengthened to enhance the security of space assets for all space users and to prevent the weaponization of Outer Space. Thus, India supports the substantive consideration of the item on Prevention of an Arms Race in Outer Space in the CD, including negotiations in a subsidiary body as part of a Programme of Work as called for by UNGA resolution 70/26, which India has traditionally cosponsored and has done so again in 2015.  

5.       Universal and nondiscriminatory transparency and confidence-building measures can play a useful complementary role but are not a substitute for legally binding instruments in this field. India participated in the EU led discussions on a draft International Code of Conduct on Outer Space Activities stating that the Code should be of a voluntary, non-legally binding nature. It should be non-discriminatory and internationally acceptable.

6.       India is prepared to give consideration to the revised PPWT presented by Russia and China in CD 1985/2042as a contribution to the various proposals for negotiating a legally binding instrument in the CD. There are important gaps in the draft text raising questions as to its utility in addressing current and emerging challenges and there would be value in further in-depth examine of these questions.

7.       Though India supported resolution 70/53 on TCBMs, it is unfortunate that a major space faring country like India was not included in the GGE on TCBMs. In our view a more representative GGE could have enhanced the content of the report. This is one example of how a decision to keep India out was actually a loss to the GGE. Notwithstanding our concerns about the GGE on TCBMs, India already implements a number of TCBMs- including registering space objects with the UN register, prelaunch notifications, measures in harmony with UN Space Mitigation Guidelines, participation in IADC activities with regard to space debris management, undertaking SOPA (Space Object Proximity Awareness and COLA (Collision Avoidance) Analysis and numerous international cooperation activities. including hosting the UN affiliated Centre for Space and Science Technology Education in Asia and Pacific, which has provided training courses for over 1500 participants from 52 countries. India also participated in the joint meeting of the First and Fourth Committees held in Oct last year.

8.       India is an active participant in all UN COPUOS sessions and hopes that the finalization of the Guidelines on the Long-term Sustainability of Outer Space Activities can play a useful role as an interim building block until more sustainable legally binding instruments are put in place. COPUOUS also plays a useful role in addressing current and emerging trends – space debris, collision avoidance, micro- satellites, reusable launch vehicles, nuclear power sources, among others. 

9.       India supported UNGA resolution 70/27 on No First Placement of Weapons on Outer Space.We see the NFP of weapons in outer space as only an interim step and not a substitute for concluding substantive legal measures to ensure the prevention of an arms race in outer space, which should continue to be a priority for the international community. More broadly, states should refrain from actions contrary to the peaceful uses of Outer Space and relevant international treaties and commitments.

10.     India supports the substantive consideration of the issue of PAROS in the CD where it has been on the agenda since 1982, including inter alia negotiations in a subsidiary body as part of a Programme of Work. The CD's membership includes all the military significant states. Since the nature of the threats to space security go beyond space debris, the CD is ideal for integrating all the concerns into a mandate for addressing them comprehensively.

11.     India is studying the proposal and the mandate for a third agenda item at the UNDC on TCBMs in Outer Space, keeping in mind the need to preserve the respective mandates of the three pillars of the disarmament machinery. This should be taken forward through broad-based consultations.

12.     India shares the concerns about emerging threats to space security. It is important that States be given the incentive to protect their interests by investing in legally binding multilateral instruments rather than by resorting to national measures or interim and partial steps that do not fully address the concerns of all space actors.

Permanent Mission of India to the Conference on Disarmament, Geneva