Experts urge Pakistan to invest in space program citing global implications of India’s space program
Pakistan must actively focus on the maximum utilization of existing space capabilities to decrease the gap with India. “Pakistan has to set its priorities in outer space and allocate resources accordingly” and also consider the commercialization of space programs to overcome the financial constraints.
These remarks were made by Air Chief Marshal (Retd) Kaleem Saadat, NI(M) during his keynote address as a chief guest at a discussion organized by the Arms Control & Disarmament Centre (ACDC) at the Institute of Strategic Studies Islamabad (ISSI) on February 25, 2020.
“The capability differential between the space programs Pakistan and India will increase the regional instability” Mr Kaleem Saadat warned
Dr. Naeem Salik, Senior Fellow at Centre for International and Strategic Studies (CISS) provided a comparative analysis of space programs of Pakistan and India. He identified three areas of Indian space militarization: dual-use space platforms, ballistic missile system and linkage with the nuclear program. He also talked about the Indian anti-satellite capability which will lead to new global and regional arms race in outer space. He also cited cyber and laser weapons as new threats to space-based assets.
Husham Ahmed Cheema, Director Arms Control and Disarmament Division at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs enlightened the audience about the role of international norms in this issue area. Despite its support for international norms, India is continuously developing its ballistic missile program. India has not signed the Moon Treaty of 1979 but it has entered into a Space Situational Agreement with the US which will give it a false sense of confidence that it can track Pakistan’s strategic assets from outer-space.
Ambassador Aizaz Ahmad Chaudhry, Director General ISSI, welcomed the experts from official departments, think-tanks and academia to discuss India’s modernization of dual-use space programs and its effects on the global strategic landscape.
In his opening remarks, Malik Qasim Mustafa, Director ACDC-ISSI, said that states are contesting for the “newest warfighting domain,” and that is “outer space.” Major powers are investing huge resources to modernize and develop their space programs with dual-use capabilities. India has already embarked upon a dual-use space race and a global space competition, which will have global and regional implications.
The main issue highlighted during the discussion was the integration of space technologies with other emerging technologies like artificial intelligence, information and communication technologies, cyberspace, lasers and how it will affect the survivability of deterrence on the ground.
Participants also discussed the social, economic, political, diplomatic and military consequences of the Indian space program. They agreed that there are always asymmetric ways to counter the technological development like increasing public-private partnership, development of the economic model for the self-sustainable space program, increasing incentive for the future generation in this area, easy availability of data for research and exploration of new applications of space technologies for sustainable development. Pakistan must identify it’s redline in outer space and communicate them to its adversaries.
Ghazala Yasmin Jalil, Research Fellow, ACDC-ISSI, gave a briefing on India’s space program and highlighted its global and regional implications.
Concluding the discussion, Chairman BOG, ISSI Ambassador Khalid Mahmood talked about the development of dual-use space technologies by India and their destabilizing effect on the deterrence equation in South Asia. On the issue of the future course of action, he said that Pakistan could invest in the indigenization of dual-use space technologies and public-private partnerships to enhance its deterrence against India. At the regional level, Pakistan and India should start bilateral negotiations for the CBMs in outer space. At the international level, Pakistan should play an active role in the development of relevant international norms, he said.