India and the Artemis Accords


    In News 

    • Recently, India accepted the Artemis Accords which has met with great interest within the space community.

    About the Artemis Accords

    • About:
      • The Artemis Accords are non-binding guidelines underpinning the Artemis program.
        • The Artemis programme is an ambitious U.S.-led project to return humans to the Moon, this time permanently
        • The project plan includes a base on the lunar surface, multiple spacecraft to ferry humans and cargo, a small orbiting space station called the ‘Lunar Gateway’, and a constellation of satellites to help with navigation and communication.
      • The programme is named after the Greek Goddess of the Moon and sister to Apollo.
    • Artemis Accords signatories:
      • 27 countries, including the USA (founding member), have signed the Accords
    • International Lunar Research Station’ (ILRS):
      • Artemis mirrors a Chinese-Russian plan for an ‘International Lunar Research Station’ (ILRS). 
      • With Russia financially constrained and reeling under sanctions, China has taken the lead on ILRS, outlining similar plans for a permanent base and a lunar satellite constellation.

    Outer Space Treaties & Moon agreement

    • Outer Space Treaties:
      • There are 5 treaties that govern activities in outer space, including the aforementioned Outer Space Treaty. 
        • Three of the remaining treaties deal with the rescue of astronauts, the registration of space objects and liability for damages caused by a space operation. 
        • This leaves us with the final treaty, the Moon Agreement of 1979. 
    • Moon agreement:
      • About:
        • The Moon Agreement is directed towards the use of the Moon and other celestial bodies
        • It declares that these regions of space must only be for peaceful purposes, with no state allowed to establish military bases or place weapons on celestial bodies. 
        • This is an extension of the concept of outer space being reserved for peaceful purposes, which was noted in the Outer Space Treaty. 
      • Resources exploitation & ‘global commons’:
        • The Moon Agreement also speaks to how resources may be exploited from these celestial bodies. 
        • It establishes that the moon and other celestial bodies are ‘the province of all mankind’. 
        • This makes these areas a ‘global commons’
          • Global commons is a legal term used to describe international waters, being areas meant for the greater good of humankind, rather than merely for state appropriation. 
          • This is extended to the natural resources of the moon, which are meant to be extracted with the guidance on an international regime that would have the power to ration these resources to the states on the Earth. 
        • Protecting celestial bodies:
          • The Moon Agreement further requires state parties to act on celestial bodies keeping in mind the protection of their environment.
      • India’s position on the Moon Agreement:
        • India is a signatory to the Moon Agreement, yet it has not ratified it. 

    Origin of Artemis Accords

    • Despite being instrumental in the drafting of the Moon Agreement, the United States refused to ratify it. 
      • Several nations followed suit, which has led to this being the least internationally accepted of the space treaties.
    • In 2020, the administration in USA, released an executive order pointing out that the U.S. was not a party to the Moon Agreement and did not view outer space as a global commons
      • This order invited other states to utilise opportunities to make use of resources from outer space. 
    • This led to the creation of the Artemis Accords.

    Significance for India

    • Building greater relationships:
      • India has great aspirations in outer space and by joining the Accords it has signalled an interest in building a greater relationship with NASA and its partners.
    • Gains from the accord:
      • Parties to the Accords gain greatly from the exchange of information and gain access to NASA’s Artemis programme – bringing humans back onto the lunar surface for the first time following the Apollo missions – which would greatly help India’s own Gaganyaan mission
        • Its purpose is rooted deeply within the principle of sharing of scientific findings and knowledge enshrined in Article XI of the Outer Space Treaty (1967). 
          • This Treaty acts as the foundation for space law today, with India being one of its 113 parties, along with all other major players in the space sector.
    • Isolation of Russia’s space activities:
      • With the war in Ukraine making Russia’s space activities more isolated than before, India may be signalling an important shift in its overall space policy by casting its lot with the Americans. 
      • The years to come will show the value of this action, with missions already being planned between ISRO and NASA, which may soon see the first Indian aboard the ISS and the first Indian astronaut since Rakesh Sharma, all those decades ago.

    Issues & challenges

    • Informal set of guidelines: 
      • Artemis Accords were an informal set of guidelines or norms rather than a legally-binding instrument. 
      • India has historically preferred formal law over informal guidelines because it believes laws foster better compliance among adherents regardless of their relative power in the international system.
    • India’s shifting away from Russia:
      • For India, it could signal a shift away from Russia, following the invasion of Ukraine and the reduced scope of Russian activities in space after the fall of the Soviet Union.

    Way ahead

    • Space exploration reflects both the genius of humanity and the pathologies of its politics. 
      • For leaders in the U.S. and China, lunar exploration carries strong totemic value, embodying all that is good about their countries at a time when they are locked in a bitter rivalry. 
      • Leaders are also making a bet that the sheer difficulty of lunar exploration will spur technological innovation.
    • India will have to increase its budget for space, overcome domestic resistance to collaboration with other space agencies, enable its private sector to work with other Artemis members, and develop legislation that encourages space activities.


    Daily Mains Question

    [Q] What is the geopolitical significance of India’s acceptance of the Artemis Accords? What are the issues & challenges?