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India calls for laws to ensure open access to space for all nations

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United Nations: As a space-faring nation, India has called for strengthening international laws to protect open access for all countries to space.

“India supports strengthening the international legal regime to protect and preserve access to space for all and to prevent without exception the weaponisation of outer space,” DB Venkatesh Varma, India’s permanent representative to the Conference on Disarmament, told a General Assembly Committee on disarmament issues.

“As a major space-faring nation, India has vital developmental and security interest in space,” he said.

Stressing India’s interest in ensuring that international treaties do not monopolize the power of a few nations, he said, “discussions on a draft International Code of Conduct for Outer Space Activities should be inclusive, covering all space-faring nations to ensure a product of universal acceptance adopted by consensus and through a process anchored in the UN.”

In a broad-ranging speech laying out India’s position on disarmament issues, Varma reiterated the crux of India’s nuclear policy, “as a responsible nuclear power, India’s nuclear doctrine continues to stress a policy of credible minimum deterrence with a posture of no-first-use and a non-use against non-nuclear states. We remain committed to maintaining a unilateral and voluntary moratorium on nuclear explosive testing.”

He said that increasing the restraints on use of nuclear weapons is “not only an essential first step, it is also necessary in the current complex international environment”.

Varma said that complete elimination of nuclear weapons can be achieved through “a step by step process” that is global and non-discriminatory. “All states possessing nuclear weapons can make a contribution by engaging in a meaningful dialogue to build trust and confidence by reducing the salience of nuclear weapons in international affairs and security doctrine,” he said.

US Assistant Secretary for Arms Control Frank Rose said that a “full-spectrum” pragmatic approach was necessary to reach the goal of a nuclear weapon-free world, to which Washington was committed.

He criticized proposals for outright ban on nuclear weapons, which could not succeed because they failed to recognize the need to develop the necessary verification capabilities and build the security conditions. Instead, he said, it risked creating a very unstable security environment where miscalculations could escalate crises and even lead to the possible use of a nuclear weapon.

Rose said that nuclear deterrence and disarmament were complementary because both aimed at preventing the use of nuclear weapons. Deterrence sought to constrain threats as countries worked to reduce nuclear weapons and shore-up efforts to prevent further proliferation, he added.

Varma raised the threat of terrorists getting access to weapons of mass destruction and said the international community should continue to exercise utmost vigilance.

The Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) and the Biological Weapons Convention (BWC) were examples of “global non-discriminatory treaties for the complete elimination” of the weapons of mass destruction of those types, he said.

“India has completed its obligations on stockpile destruction under the CWC,” he said, adding timely destruction by other state parties of the remaining stockpiles is critical for upholding the convention’s credibility and integrity.

Varma noted India’s contribution to the efforts by the UN and the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) to destroy Syria’s chemical weapons stockpiles.

On the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT), which India has not signed, Varma said New Delhi was continuing to review it “from the perspective of our defense, security and foreign policy interests”.

India’s main concern over the ATT centers on what New Delhi considers its weakness in dealing with terrorists and non-state actors, and unilateral powers it could confer on arms exporters.

Speaking at last week’s committee session, Wang Qun, the director-general of China’s Arms Control Department, brought up cyber-security, the next frontier in international confrontations, and suggested adoption of an international code of conduct on cyberspace that calls for peaceful resolution of disputes in this area and it was used for only peace and security activities.

Stretching it a step further, he said the code should also ensure that nations should not interfere in the internal affairs of others.

If there were no international rules governing cyberspace or outer space, the world “incurred risks of the law of the jungle”, Wang said.

(Arul Louis,IANS)

Next Story

Concerns Rise Over China’s Stand at United Nations Human Rights Council

China has passed human rights reviews twice before this one, while more than 120 countries Beijing's human rights record during the most recent process.

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The 22nd session of the U.N. Human Rights Council meets in Geneva on Feb. 25, 2013. RFA

Rights activists are increasingly worried that Beijing’s influence operations are having a negative impact on the work of the United Nations Human Rights Council, which concludes its 40th session on Friday.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) China director Sophie Richardson warned in an article this week that China is seeking to undermine the mission of the U.N. Human Rights Council from within.

She also cited HRW research in 2017 which reported threats and harassment of U.N. staff involved in human rights evaluation by Chinese officials.

“As we head towards the final phase of [China’s U.N. human rights review], ask yourself: What other government threatens #humanrights treaty body experts?” Richardson tweeted on Thursday.

“As an [Human Rights Council] member #China is expected to uphold highest standards,” she wrote in another tweet, referencing a report in The New York Times. “Instead it tells people that merely attending an event is a ‘hostile act.'”

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During the recent round, the Chinese government said it accepted most of the 346 human rights recommendations put forward by the council. VOA

According to HRW’s 2017 article based on a 97-page report: “Chinese officials have at times harassed and intimidated U.N. staff, experts on treaty bodies, and independent experts focusing on specific human rights issues.”

The 2014 death in detention of activist Cao Shunli, who was detained on her way to a U.N. human rights event in Geneva, also sent a “chilling” message to Chinese activists who may want to participate in the U.N. human rights process, the article said.

HRW isn’t the only human rights organization worried about Chinese influence at the U.N.

Renee Xia, who heads the Chinese Human Rights Defenders (CHRD) network, reported from a side-event of the Human Rights Council conference in Geneva this week that it was “standing room only.”

“Strong show of interest despite #China urging countries not to attend,” Xia tweeted.

“The strong attendance was more remarkable esp. after #China officials went to many countries’ diplomats at the U.N., Geneva, to threaten them with “serious consequences” if they attended the side events,” she wrote in another tweet.

“#Bullying at the UN must stop!” she wrote.

‘So many restrictions’

Wang Dan, a former leader of the 1989 student-led pro-democracy movement on Tiananmen Square, is also in Geneva this week.

“To tell you the truth, my feelings during my two days here are that China has huge influence at the U.N.,” Wang told RFA.

“For example, at one side-event, it wasn’t just the Chinese delegation who spoke against [criticisms of Beijing’s rights record], but other countries came to speak in support of China’s position,” he said.

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“Many of the countries participating in the Human Rights Council are actually the ones that are carrying out the most violations of human rights, Pixabay

Wang said tight controls over public speech also make it less likely that the ruling Chinese Communist Party will have to face criticism of human rights violations coming from within its own borders.

“There are a lot of people online in China, but they are under so many restrictions,” he said. “You can’t mention the Tiananmen Massacre. You can’t mention [late Nobel peace laureate and political prisoner] Liu Xiaobo. You can’t say this, you can’t say that.”

“I don’t think that’s how you define freedom … but then the Chinese point to the U.N. charter, which says that all member states must be respected,” he said.

‘Autocratic rule the default’

Veteran New York-based rights activist Liu Qing said the work of the council had become “unrecognizable” to him.

“Many of the countries participating in the Human Rights Council are actually the ones that are carrying out the most violations of human rights,” Liu told RFA.

“The only purpose of these countries in insinuating themselves into the Human Rights Council is to curb the positive role of the Human Rights Council and make autocratic rule the default setting on the international stage,” he said.

Amnesty International blogger Shao Jiang wrote in December 2018 that Beijing is reinterpreting universal human rights as merely the right to survival, freedom to access food, and regards other definitions of human rights as secondary to trade and economic development.

“The Chinese government has appointed government officials as independent experts into the UN’s Human Rights Council Advisory Committee, and the U.N. treaty bodies,” Shao said.

China has passed human rights reviews twice before this one, while more than 120 countries Beijing’s human rights record during the most recent process.

During the recent round, the Chinese government said it accepted most of the 346 human rights recommendations put forward by the council.

Also Read: Myanmar Government Calls Ethnic Armed Groups To Attend Collective Peace Discussions For The First Time

The United Nations now reports annually on government reprisals against human rights defenders participating in U.N. human rights efforts, Richardson wrote in an article in The Hill last December.

“China has topped the list of offenders in every report issued,” she said. (RFA)