After the U.S. has put forward its Asia-Pacific strategy in 2017, many commentators believed that the concept was artificial and lacking in political foundation, concluding therefore that it would not take off. However, contrary to this prediction, the development of the Indo-Pacific strategy in recent years shows a trend of strengthening, and this trend is likely to continue in the near future. On the whole, the factors driving the Indo-Pacific strategy forward are clearly stronger than the constraints.
Prospects for the Squad-based Indo-Pacific
The political will of the U.S., Japan, India and Australia to foster the Indo-Pacific cooperation is increasing rather than weakening, which is the most important basis for further progress of the Indo-Pacific. Although the concept and objectives of the Indo-Pacific strategy of the four countries are not exactly the same and cannot be equated, and the Indo-Pacific has not yet produced tangible security effects and economic benefits for its participants, the four countries have a consensus on promoting cooperation within this framework, with this consensus becoming increasingly consolidated. With the interest of all the four participants, it is natural for the Indo-Pacific to continue to grow—though the extent of this remains uncertain.
At the same time, the relations between the four countries with China are in decline, and there is no possibility of directional improvement in the near future, which is also an important background for the future of the Indo-Pacific strategy. This situation will stimulate the four countries to get closer, thus naturally contributing to the development of the Indo-Pacific. Among these, the change in China-India relations has a greater impact. The relations between China and the United States, Japan, and Australia have been subject to strategic tensions, so the impact of them as variables is relatively consistent. India has been abiding by its non-aligned policy and pursuing diplomatic independence and balance in great power relationship. It has been cautious to join a group with an obvious anti-China intention.
However, the Galawan Valley conflict between China and India, which took place in June 2020, has brought China-Indian relations to a new low, while others see this as a turning point in the Sino-Indian relations, where India is likely to adjust its balanced and cautious policy to take advantage of the Quartet’s role for its security. One sign of this realignment may be the joint naval exercise in the Bay of Bengal in November 2020 of India, the U.S., Japan and Australia.
Towards cementing Quad
The Indo-Pacific is likely gradually moving from intangible concepts to concrete formal or informal mechanisms. In this process, Quad, the dialogue mechanism of the U.S., Japan, India, and Australia, will play a key role. Each of the four has their own ideas about the Indo-Pacific, but this is only a conceptual closeness, and the Quad is the link that connects them together. Without the Quad, perspectives of the four nations on the Indo-Pacific would have been scattered, and it was the Quad that made them a whole.
Originally unrelated to the Indo-Pacific strategy, the Quad was set up as a dialogue mechanism between the United States, Japan, India, and Australia to coordinate relief efforts after the December 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, but it fell silent after only one meeting in 2007. With the U.S. Indo-Pacific strategy emerging, the Quad was reactivated as the Quad 2.0.
Since 2017, the frequency of Quad activities has increased, with one or two ministerial dialogues held almost every year. It has broadened its agenda to include issues relating to security, democracy, economy, international order, cyber and infrastructure and so on. In March 2021, it has been upgraded from the ministerial level to the level of heads of state, which is a sign that Biden, far from abandoning Trump’s diplomatic legacy, intends to make it stronger and bigger.
With the close inter-relationship between the Indo-Pacific and the Quad, further development of the Quad almost equals the process of institutionalization of Indo-Pacific. The more Quad develops, the more the institutionalization of Indo-Pacific progresses. In the future, it is quite possible for the Indo-Pacific to form its mechanism framework on the basis of Quad, but to what extent is another question.
NATO in Asia?
Much attention has been paid to whether Quad will become “Asia’s NATO.” No doubt, the U.S. would like Quad to go along this trajectory. But in today’s international political environment, the possibility of establishing a NATO-style international military alliance is no longer likely. Not being “Asia’s NATO” does not mean that Quad will have no security and military function.
Without being a formal military bloc, it can still act as a mechanism of security coordination. However, building a large-scale hostile and overtly multinational military alliance is more difficult, especially since its target is almost public: China. For America and for China, military security is of particular importance, however it would be too narrow to see Quad from a military perspective only. The significance of Quad is beyond purely military and security considerations, its influence and functions are much broader.
The United States already has military allies, such as Japan and Australia, so the key to Quad’s transformation into a military bloc lies with India. For India, setting up a military alliance is a significant and fundamental issue relating to its basic political, diplomatic and security policies. Security cooperation is one thing, and joining a military alliance is another. To form a military alliance for India implies tying itself to a chariot that it can’t fully control. Taking this step may be very difficult for India unless there is a massive war threat.
Indo-Pacific as a global point of interest
The Indo-Pacific has the possibility to expand, that is, to draw new countries into the Indo-Pacific strategy, with South Korea, New Zealand, Bangladesh, Vietnam and other ASEAN countries as the main objects. If successful, this will expand the Indo-Pacific’s scope and provide it with a new impetus. The expansion of the Indo-Pacific may take the form of absorbing new members, that is, new countries will join the Indo-Pacific, and thus Quad will be enlarged. It may also take the form of Quad Plus to form a flexible dialogue with other countries. In fact, low-level Quad Plus track-two communications have been in place for years. These may be lifted to a ministerial level or even higher.
Europe is also formulating and implementing its own Indo-Pacific Strategy, which is an additional stimulus for the development of the Indo-Pacific. The French Ministry of Defense published the French Indo-Pacific Defense Strategy in May 2019. In April 2021, France announced that it was joining the Indo-Pacific Initiative (IPOI) proposed by India in 2019 and sent its sole aircraft carrier, Charles de Gaulle, into the Indian Ocean to participate in joint exercises with India. The German government issued policy guidelines on the Indo-Pacific region in September 2020, entitled “Germany-Europe-Asia: Shaping the 21st Century Together.” At the same time, the UK has also decided to make the Indo-Pacific the focus of its future diplomacy and security, making a strategic shift to the Indo-Pacific. This has been reflected in the document published in March 2021 with the title “Global Britain in a Competitive Age: the Integrated Review of Security, Defence, Development and Foreign Policy.” Like France, Britain has sent its only operational aircraft carrier, HMS Queen Elizabeth, on a tour to the Indo-Pacific. Most importantly, in April 2021, with the push of France, Germany and the Netherlands, the EU launched its own Indo-Pacific Strategy, called the “EU Strategy for Cooperation in the Indo-Pacific”. This signifies that moving towards to Indo-Pacific has also become the common strategy of the 27 EU countries.
Although there are many differences in the Indo-Pacific strategies between the EU and the United States, they also have important commonalities and inherent closeness. This is particularly evident in two aspects: geo-strategically, they all take China as the main target and aim at curbing the rise of China’s strategic influence. Ideologically, they both insist on cooperation based on Western values—the U.S. version is adherence to the liberal values; the EU version is cooperation with “like-minded” people. Due to its geographical location and traditional influence, the EU’s Indo-Pacific also includes the Arab and African regions, which greatly expands the geographical span of the Indo-Pacific. It can be expected that the Indo-Pacific of Europe and that of the U.S., Japan, India, and Australia will form some sort of a connection, so that the Indo-Pacific is likely to be promoted to a higher level, and its scale and influence will go global.
Finally, with globalization and regional cooperation deepening, the economic connection of the Indian and the Pacific Ocean regions will naturally go further. Meanwhile, the role of these oceanic regions has been growing in world politics, economy and security, turning them into the world’s political and economic center of gravity, attracting players from both inside and outside and making the regions a major arena of international cooperation, competition or confrontation.
Located between the Pacific and the Indian Oceans, Southeast Asia nations, Australia, New Zealand, India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka are countries of the two Oceans. They have a natural interest in being involved in regional economic cooperation in both the Pacific and the Indian Ocean regions. The agenda of the Indo-Pacific covers wide areas, alongside with the geostrategic content, it is also exploiting economic cooperation and trade, environmental protection, infrastructure construction, regional connection, scientific and technological innovation, service, education, digitalization, anti-pandemic cooperation and so on. Although this cooperation could be used for geopolitical purposes by the U.S., for the regional countries concerned cooperation in these practical areas could be of interest, even if they do not necessarily share the anti-China goal and do not like to take sides between the U.S. and China. All these factors are favoring the connection of the Pacific and the Indian Ocean regions, particularly in economic terms, though it does not justify the confrontational nature of the Indo-Pacific strategy of the United States.
From our partner RIAC
Indian Conventional and Strategic Arms Buildup: Implications for Pakistan
South Asia’s regional dynamic is both flamboyant and intricate. Various empires have formed, prospered, and perished over the millennia, as innumerable conflicts and struggles for control of resources spread over the globe. However, 2021 was a year of fierce weapons competition between South Asia’s nuclear neighbors, India and Pakistan, who carried out 26 missile tests. India launched 16 ballistic and cruise missiles while Pakistan tested 10 missiles with nearly identical capabilities.
As a response to the perceived inability of the Indian Armed Forces (IAF) to adequately respond to the Pakistani insurgencies, and after the failure of the Indian forces to quickly react and mobilize their forces in 2001, the Indian Army and the defense policymakers realized the lack of modernized and consistent army doctrine. This resulted in the announcement by the Indian Army in 2004 of a new limited war doctrine known as the Cold Start Doctrine (CSD).
Importance of Air Base
The importance of air superiority can be witnessed by looking at the six days of the Arab-Israeli War, in which the Israeli forces pre-empted an attack from the bases of Jordan, Syria, Egypt, and Iraq, and struck the air force before the fight even began. The outcome of the war was determined during its first hours. By destroying the opposing air fleet, Israeli forces gained air superiority, and thus the Arab forces were helpless in their efforts, which eventually resulted in a humiliating defeat for the Arabs.
Indian Air-Bases: A Strategic Threat
In the contemporary era, military forces are going for weapon systems that require absolutely no time at all when it comes to striking a target. In that regard, the air force comes first for the obvious reason that its threshold is low as compared to a ballistic missile strike. Indian force deployment and employment are very close to Pakistan’s borders, from Siachen to the Rann of Kutch. In India’s most recent attack on Balakot, which took place in 2019, the air force was utilized. This clearly shows the Indian resolve to use the air force in any future blatant aggression like the one in February 2019.
The Indian air force deployment is tailor-made for Pakistan. If one analyzes the airbases/airstrips positioning and range from the Pakistani-Indo international border, the Line of Control (LOC), and the working boundary, it is quite obvious that the positioning shows the aggressive posture of the Indian Air Force. When deployed at those bases, the aircraft are the finest in the Indian military, both in terms of their quality and serviceability. When it comes to the up-gradation of the base’s facilities, this is the top priority list that is visible to everyone. In May 2021, the bases in Pakistan got priority.
The bases are positioned in such a strategy to cover every city in Pakistan, as it has no strategic depth. Pakistan’s major cities, like Karachi, Lahore, Multan, Faisalabad, Hyderabad, Bahawalpur, Rahim Yar Khan, Sialkot, and even the capital, Islamabad, are within the Indian Air Force’s reach. The same goes for the areas in Kashmir and Gilgit Baltistan.
Future Threat Scenario
Now the question arises what will happen in the future in light of past historical data? The answer to this is both simple and complex. It is simple in the context that the IAF will target Pakistan with its pre-defined strategy of naked aggression against peaceful neighbors, while the Indian Army is following a pro-active offense posture; the complex part is where, when, and how.
The IAF will utilize the war scenario created by the Indian government and Indian media after a staged terrorist attack on a civilian or military target, for which they will put full blame on the Pakistani state and security apparatus. They will try to raise the temperature to the point where the Indian civil establishment shows the world community that now enough is enough and our people are demanding a counter-strike. At that time, the Indian establishment will use its media to put blame on Pakistan and create a war-like scenario while raising tensions.
In light of that, the IAF, under the orders of the Indian government, along with the Indian army, will start attacking the Pakistani bases in the early moments of the war because if the IAF does not target PAF bases, then there will be grave consequences for the Indian army, and the Pakistani army also has additional fire support bases. The above-mentioned rationale will be the main cause of the IAF attacking the PAF infrastructure, thus undermining the national security of Pakistan. The Indian army, with the IAF, will aspire to rapid, shallow penetration of Pakistani territory, without crossing the nuclear threshold of Pakistan. The Indian military will go for a quick and short battle that will surprise Pakistan because that is the only possible strategy in their minds when talking about limited war scenarios or showing off war.
The IAF is a major threat to the national security of Pakistan in the wake of its alignment with the Indian military’s CSD. The operational exercises conducted in the past and the recent strikes at Balakot exhibit the growing role of the IAF in the Indian military offensive strategy against Pakistan. Vast parts of Pakistan are within the combat radius of the IAF’s operational fighters because of Pakistan’s lack of strategic depth.
The IAF will try to use this as an advantage to support the pro-active and offensive strategy of the Indian Armed Forces to harm Pakistan, as that would be their prime objective because of their hegemonic designs. In order to protect itself from India’s flagrant military aggression, Pakistan should take some protective measures.
In the wake of the growing IAF threat, the PAF and Pakistani government should take the following measures on an urgent basis:
- Build some new airstrips along the border with India, to balance the threat by not allowing an IAF advantage in any sector. Moreover, the building of airstrips requires less money; thus this step will not put a strain on Pakistan’s economy;
- Buy more advanced surveillance radars to detect early IAF movement.
- Purchase advanced surface-to-air missiles to create a defensive barrier;
- Go for indigenizing the modern, state-of-the-art 5th generation fighter aircraft, as buying from foreign suppliers is very expensive.
- Ask the international community to put pressure on both sides to sign confidence-building measures that will lead to peace and stability.
The audacious AUKUS submarine deal and Asia’s changing security landscape
In this exhaustive analysis, I try to spell out the impact and potential consequences of the recently-brokered submarine deal between the U.S., the U.K., and Australia on Asia’s changing security landscape.
All advanced navies of the world possess lethal submarines, powered by either diesel-electric or nuclear propulsion. These underwater warships are the most potent asset at the disposal of a naval force for maritime power projection, sea denial and sea control. Lying silently under water, they are capable of sinking surface ships, including large aircraft carriers, with torpedoes or ballistic missiles. Ever since WW-II, submarines have made its name as one of the most crucial components of maritime strategy and naval warfare. Australia and the U.K. are two key maritime nations of the world, which happen to be security allies of the United States, a country that owns and operates the largest fleet of nuclear-powered submarines in the world. Being nuclear-powered not necessarily mean being armed with nuclear warheads.
The 2021-formed AUKUS (Australia, U.S., U.K.) “enhanced trilateral security partnership” has taken cooperation between the three Anglophone countries to the next level. U.S. President Joe Biden hosted the prime ministers of the United Kingdom and Australia – PM Rishi Sunak and PM Anthony Albanese – in the Californian port city of San Diego on 13 March 2023, where they jointly announced a detailed four-phased plan to equip Australia (a non-nuclear-weapon state) with “conventionally armed, nuclear-powered” submarines (codenamed SSN) at least by the next decade along with strengthening cooperation in other areas such as critical and emerging technologies.
The plan would cost Canberra’s exchequer up to a whopping A$ 368 bn. (US$ 245 bn.) in total by 2055, according to reports. The detailed plan, spanning a time frame of three decades, was announced after an eighteen-month-long consultation period following the creation of AUKUS in mid-September 2021. Australian PM Anthony Albanese called the deal “the single biggest leap” in Australia’s defence capabilities in the nation’s history. If the plan goes ahead smoothly as planned, Australia will become the seventh country in the world to add nuclear-powered submarines to its navy. As the deal turns out to be a race against time, the biggest challenge is to ensure deterrence capabilities for Australia at the present, as the full benefits of the deal would take years to materialise.
AUKUS leaders believe that the deal would “strengthen deterrence and bolster stability in the Indo-Pacific and beyond for decades to come”, apparently keeping in mind the exponential growth of China’s naval power in the recent past. China has built 12 nuclear-powered submarines in the last two decades, including ballistic missile submarines (codenamed SSBNs) and is continuing its ambitious ship-building spree in all fronts. As per the AUKUS plan, the first phase of the deal is set to begin as early as this year, with U.S. and British SSNs increasing their port visits in Australia along with joint embedded training of naval personnel, which will be followed by a rotational deployment of U.S. and British SSNs in the island continent.
In the remaining two phases of the deal, Washington will deliver a flotilla of three to five advanced Virginia-class nuclear-powered submarines to Australia by the early 2030s, upon Congressional approval, and eventually a new “SSN-AUKUS class” of nuclear-powered submarines (SSN) will be developed in the decade that follows, for future commissioning in both British and Australian navies. With the use of nuclear energy involved, the Indo-Pacific region is abuzz with fears and concerns of an escalating arms race, even though AUKUS promises “the highest nuclear non-proliferation standard”.
Current owners of nuclear-powered submarines
As of now, only the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council (U.S., Russia, China, U.K., France) and India have active nuclear-powered attack-capable submarines in their naval fleet (see the image below). More than half of the 130 active nuclear-powered submarines in the world are operated by the U.S. Navy (67), followed by Russia (31), China (12), U.K. (10), France (9) and India (1). The rise of China’s offensive military capabilities and its naval power in particular, since the 1990s, is the single largest factor that has convinced Canberra to join hands with Washington and London to bolster its own capabilities, through AUKUS, by making use of “next-generation” British hull design and “cutting-edge” American technology.
Countries with active nuclear powered submarines (via Statista)
The AUKUS deal smartly gets away with a loophole in the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) of 1968, which allows for the transfer of fissionable material and nuclear technology from a nuclear-weapon state (NWS) to a non-NWS if it is used for non-explosive military use like naval propulsion. Such a transfer is also exempted from inspections and monitoring by the Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), an organisation that stands for the peaceful use of nuclear energy and the promotion of nuclear safety. The IAEA Director General said that he had received “separate communications” on the matter from the Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of Australia, as well as from the U.K. and the U.S.
Of all the countries that have reacted to the highly ambitious AUKUS project, the responses of China and Russia stands out, as they are in direct strategic competition with the de facto leader of AUKUS – the United States. While the Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson remarked that the U.S. and its AUKUS allies are “walking further and further down the path of error and danger for their own geopolitical self-interest”, Russian foreign minister commented, “the Anglo-Saxon world, with the creation of structures like AUKUS and with the advancement of NATO military infrastructures into Asia, is making a serious bet on many years of confrontation in Asia”.
While Australian Foreign Minister Penny Wong cities Canberra’s bid for “strategic equilibrium” in the region as the underlying factor that led to the AUKUS pact, opinions on the submarine deal, which comes at a humongous cost, are not uniform across Australia’s political spectrum. Former Prime Minister Paul Keating thinks Canberra is compromising on a proper national defence strategy to help maintain U.S. “strategic hegemony” in Asia and has also stated that the submarine deal would be ineffective in the event of a war. Indonesia, Malaysia and New Zealand have also shared their concerns about the risk of nuclear proliferation in the region.
As per the Bangkok Treaty of 1995, Southeast Asia is a nuclear-weapon-free zone (NWFZ). Moreover, almost all of the ASEAN member-states have deep economic linkages with China, even though they rely on the U.S. for “security and stability” in Asia. Even though some of them have disputes with Beijing in the South China Sea, like the Philippines and Vietnam, they prefer to avoid unnecessary “provocations” and try to balance their ties with the U.S. and China, amid intensifying regional rivalry between the two big powers. Australian defence and foreign ministries are expected to embark on a diplomatic charm offensive to assuage all concerns of Southeast Asian countries lying in China’s periphery.
Eyeing for balance of power
AUKUS was announced just one year after a Pentagon report claimed that China has built the world’s largest naval fleet in sheer numerical terms, even though the Chinese People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) relies mostly on smaller classes of ships, while the U.S. naval strength is further multiplied by its allied navies. One of the most-overlooked events of March 2023 was the annual session of China’s ceremonial national legislature, the National People’s Congress (NPC), which handed over China’s Presidency to the hyper-nationalistic and revanchist leader Xi Jinping for an unprecedented third time in a row.
The newly-appointed Chinese foreign minister Qin Gang, formerly China’s Ambassador to the United States, held a press conference on the sidelines of the NPC, during which he made a significant remark that throws light on the deteriorating state of U.S.-China relations. He accused the U.S. of harbouring a “Cold War mentality” and said, “… the United States claims that it seeks to out-compete China but does not seek conflict. Yet in reality, it’s so-called competition means to contain and suppress China in all respects and get the two countries locked in a zero-sum game … If the United States does not hit the brake but continues to speed down the wrong path, no amount of guardrails can prevent derailing, and there will surely be conflict and confrontation … Containment and suppression will not make America great, and it will not stop the rejuvenation of China …”
Washington’s shooting of a suspected Chinese “spy balloon” that flew over American airspace earlier this year is the latest example of this downward spiral in U.S.-China ties. The Indo-Pacific, as a geostrategic concept and a broader maritime region, came into being as China began to flex its military muscles throughout its immediate and extended neighbourhood, where U.S. and its allies have a robust military presence.
Being part of the U.S.-led alliance system, including the “Five Eyes” intelligence-sharing network and the recent AUKUS pact, Canberra has become a lynchpin of Washington’s evolving Indo-Pacific strategy to counter growing Chinese assertiveness and stated offensive intentions vis-à-vis Taiwan, the South and East China Seas, and also the Line of Actual Control (LAC) with India. Australia is also due to the host the third in-person Quad leaders’ summit later this year.
As the “threat perception” of China in the West continues to rise day by day, the extent to which an AUKUS-centered deterrence is possible in Asia remains to be seen in the years to come.
Anti-Satellite Weapons: Risks and Regulations
Today, outer space is characterised as an increasingly congested, contested, and competitive domain. This is because of an unprecedented increase in satellites and actors operating them. 13 countries now possess the capability to launch satellites compared to only two in the late 50s. In 1959, there were only two man-made objects in outer space but as of 30th April, 2022, Union of Concerned Scientists’ database included 5,465 active satellites. The number stood at 3,372 on 31 December 2020 – indicating an increase of 62%.
The growing dependence over space-based assets for day-to-day activities, like communication, navigation, and weather forecasts etc. indicates that the numbers are likely to grow exponentially. The environment that these satellites face is not benign by any standard. The biggest threat emerges in the form of space debris which are any human-made objects in orbit around the Earth that no longer serve any useful purpose. 60 years of human activities in outer space have generated over 29,000 human-made objects of larger than 10cm, while even a 1cm object can collide with a satellite to cause damage comparable to a hand grenade. While some of the debris generation is inevitable, Destructive Anti Satellite Weapons (DA-ASATs) testing has been a leading source of debris creation – something that can be prevented.
DA-ASATs, part of the counterspace capabilities which help a state in establishing space superiority while denying the same to its adversary, are essentially missiles which either directly hit a satellite in outer space or destroy it through proximity detonations. Use of this capability generates debris in outer space and threatens sustainable utilisation of outer space for peaceful endeavours. Other non-kinetic counterspace capabilities include physical non-kinetic capabilities like lasers and High Power Microwaves (HPMs) that damage on board circuitry of satellites, electronic counterspace capabilities which affect the satellites’ communications channels and cyber capabilities which target the data.
In November 2022, the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) passed a non-binding resolution banning testing of DA-ASATs. The resolution was supported by an overwhelming majority of 154 states. The resolution was tabled by the United States (US) that had already announced a unilateral moratorium on such testing in April of that year. While the earliest demonstrations of such a capability date back to early Cold War, only four states have demonstrated this capability so far – the US, Russia, China, and India. While Russia and China voted against the resolution, India abstained from voting but expressed its preference for a legally binding treaty over self-declared moratoriums. Russia and China, on the other hand, objected to the resolution’s shortcomings over development of such a capability and lack of disarmament when it comes to states that already possess this capability. The two have also pointed out how the issue of non-kinetic ASATs was left out.
While the effort to mitigate debris-generation through banning the testing of DA-ASATs is praiseworthy, leaving out the continued possession, production, and development of DA-ASATs and more advanced non-kinetic capabilities is worrisome. In a way, the emerging trend of unilateral moratoriums and UNGA resolution is akin to establishing DA-ASAT ‘haves’ and ‘have nots’ as was the case of nuclear non-proliferation regime. A taboo on testing of these technologies is likely to emerge, making it difficult for other states to enter this club. Such an outcome would be desirable if the intent was to avoid an arms race in outer space and move towards disarmament of existing capabilities. However, that does not seem to be the case.
France, for instance, joined the US in announcing a moratorium on testing of DA-ASATs – in a way surrendering its option to demonstrate this capability. However, in 2019, French Defence Minister had publicised a French plan to develop anti-satellite laser weapons stating that, ‘If our [French] satellites are threatened, we intend to blind those of our adversaries.’ Lasers and other non-kinetic means present a different set of challenges for space security. Possession of such capabilities is difficult to verify, it is difficult to establish attribution once such weapons have been employed, and their non-destructive nature lowers the threshold of use. In case of electronic and counterspace capabilities, the barriers to entry are lower and the risks of proliferation are higher. If other states with significant stakes in outer space emulate the French approach, it is only going to increase the likelihood of warfighting in outer space.
The emerging taboo on non-testing of DA-ASATs is not shared by three of the four states which have demonstrated this capability so far. Notwithstanding the American divergences with Russia and China, there is merit in the position that the latter have taken. The next step, therefore, needs to be disarmament of existing DA-ASAT capabilities and a ban on their development. Alongside, the issue of non-kinetic counterspace capabilities also needs to be addressed. Without a comprehensive approach towards space security and addressing the concerns of all stakeholders, there is no way to ensure that contestation in outer space will not escalate to undesirable levels.
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