External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee wants outer space preserved as “a sanctuary from weapons” and guarded as the “common, peaceful heritage of mankind”. He has asked all nations to redouble efforts to strengthen the international legal regime for the peaceful use of outer space.
His remarks come a fortnight after China’s ‘Star Wars’ missile strike against an orbiting satellite. The Chinese muscle-flexing had triggered protests across the world against a space arms race.
On Sunday, inaugurating an international seminar on ‘Aerospace Power in Tomorrow’s World’, organised by the Indian Air Force (IAF), Mukherjee said: “Recent developments show we are treading a thin line between current defence-related uses of space and its actual weaponisation.”
He, however, strongly advocated buttressing aerospace capabilities for surveillance purposes, as well as to enable a rapid response to natural disasters, or threats to peace from any source.
With the government defining the parameters of its space programme, the fate of the aerospace command proposed by the IAF seems uncertain. The IAF has been campaigning for the setting up of such a command for some time now. On Sunday, the air force again took the opportunity to hard sell the concept. Its argument: exploit aerospace power for a better tomorrow.
Air Chief SP Tyagi said the political destinies of India’s neighbours — Pakistan, Nepal and Afghanistan included — remained unsettled and in an uncertain world, wars could never be ruled out. “Aerospace power will bring peace and stability in the future,” he told an audience comprising 39 air force chiefs. “There’s a debate about the formation of an aerospace command. We have decided it will be a tri-service command. We will have to move at a fast pace to exploit the medium of space.”
Asked to comment on Mukherjee's remarks, Tyagi chose to steer clear of controversy. "If the government is against the weaponisation of space, so are we," he said.