What is it about?

The article discusses that due to existing gaps in International outer space law some states are engaged in exploiting legal lacunae and consequently, there is an increase in militarization of outer space. As an instance of such activities, an anti-satellite (ASAT) test by India represents a strategic move to enhance its deterrence capability rather than earnestly adhering to international space law. Such actions can potentially increase the element of uncertainty in international law, particularly the international space law. The pursuit of military-strategic interests in space has increased the possibility of an arms race in space. This article argues that ASAT tests not only violate certain principles of international law but also undermine the efforts for arms control and disarmament in outer space. In this regard, an effective role of the international community is required to curb the arms race imperative for a safe and sustainable outer space environment.

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Why is it important?

The article highlights the efforts of arms control and disarmament in outer space and loopholes of international space law. It emphasizes that international morality can be better respected if States follow the natural law approach of international law to pursue their national interests in outer space.


It appears that in contemporary international relations, the weaknesses of international law are being used to achieve national strategic objectives. Some States are engaged in achieving the minimum credible deterrence. If the conventional way of deterrence is going to be assumed as the only viable solution, then it is a clear indication of the increased militarization in space. By conducting ASAT tests, the risk to the space environment is expected to increase and accidents and extension of conflicts in space are very much possible. For the sake of international peace and security, both States and the international community must use international courts to develop pressure on States to withdraw their hegemonic designs in the common heritage of outer space. Beyond the conventional international law, there is a dire need for binding rules of space arms control and transparency and confidence-building measures among States. Instead of deterrence, principles based on natural law need to be observed in a spirit of cooperation, which will lead to bridging the gaps of existing space treaties.

Dr. Shakeel Ahmad
Mcgill University

Read the Original

This page is a summary of: India’s Anti-Satellite Test: from the Perspective of International Space Law and the Law of Armed Conflict, International Criminal Law Review, February 2021, Brill, DOI: 10.1163/15718123-bja10046.
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