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A Comparison Of Pakistani And Indian Space Programmes Politics Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Politics
Wordcount: 5431 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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Explain and discuss the space programs of India and Pakistan. Highlight the relative advantages that respective advances may have on the conventional battle-space, include an understanding of real time situational awareness, the flow of information, the cross networking of information in a full spectrum warfare situation for both sides. Discuss the space program’s relationship to either country’s strategic forces or assets. In relation to the wider global community, how either country is faring and competing for power and space, such as a regional hegemon, or beyond. The comparisons are obvious in this respect as India has the absolute advantage, but explain it with technical knowledge, and strategic foresight.


CCD Camera

Charge-couple Device Camera




Geographic Information System


Ballistic Missile Defence


National Centre for Remote Sensing


Indian National Committee for Space Research


Research and Development


Indian Space Program


Space Launch Vehicle


Department of Space


Space and Upper Atmosphere Research Commission


Indian Space and Research Organisation


Weapons of Mass Destruction


Indian Space Commission


Anti-Ballistic Missile


Polar Satellite Vehicle

IRS Satellite

Indian Remote Sensing Satellite


Geostationary Satellite Launch Vehicle


Indian National Satellite


Satellite Launch Vehicle


Geosynchronous Satellite


Low Earth Orbit


Augmented Satellite Launch Vehicle


Integrated Guided Missile Development Program


Defence Research and Development Organisation


Intermediate Range Ballistic Missile


Theatre missile Defence


Multiple Independently Targetable Reentry Vehicle


Indian Air Force


Water and Power Development Authority


Outer Space Treaty


Prevention of Arms Race in Outer Space


Pakistan and India have enough conventional and WMD firepower to cause irreparable damage to each other, hence any efforts to weaponise their space programs will tantamount to insanity-even if both have the economic and technical muscle for it. The two nuclear weapons states have an adversarial relationship which spans from being cold to being extremely hostile. Though both states eschew pursuit of militarisation and weaponization of space they will covertly pursue these aims for two reasons. Indian strategists cite US-Russian-Chinese space rivalry as a reason for them to follow suit [1] and this in turn will have a spin-off effect for Pakistan.

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The notion of militarisation of space can be further dissected as ‘militarisation’ and ‘weaponization’. It is a foregone conclusion that outer space has been militarised [2] primarily by the space faring nations. Use of indigenous and collaborative intelligence gathering through satellites, global positioning systems for missile guidance and target acquisition and net-centricity through communication satellites are a norm and evidence of militarisation of space. A usual consolation is that the space has been militarised but has not “yet” been weaponized. [3] It is but a matter of time that weaponization will also happen soon as the major powers, like US, are inextricably dependent [4] on their space based military assets.

The existing international norms and treaties to keep the warfare in the inner space of the earth will be the first casualties if – let’s say – America encounters ‘a space Pearl Harbour’ [5] from an adversary that destroys some of its satellites. Hence, no matter what the existing norms, the nations with regional and / or global security concerns and power ambitions will also match the adversaries in space based technologies. US withdrawal from the ABM Treaty by Bush administration, [6] Reagan’s SDI, [7] China’s successful testing of ASAT weapon in 2007 [8] and India’s pursuit of BMD are few examples. [9] 

Since space technology is mostly dual-use, India’s peaceful space program has also served as a surrogate to its missile program. [10] The evidence to prove if Pakistan has a quest to militarize its modest space program is almost non-existent for three reasons. There is little literature on Pakistan’s space program and its military aspect will otherwise be kept secret. Space programs are cost intensive and given the poor state of Pakistan’s economy it can be safely assumed that such an ambition will remain an ambition – at least in the short term. The technology’s ‘dual-use’ nature shows that advanced nature of Pakistan’s missile program and SUPARCO’s research need a political decision and economic booster to match India. Pakistan will, however, start from a position of comparative disadvantage as India has benefited from US, Canada, Russia, France, Germany and Israel in space and missile technology. Such a bilateral space race -underway covertly in all probability – will put additional strain on India and Pakistan’s economy, vitiate regional and global security environment and further destabilise the bilateral relations the South Asian arch rivals.


This monograph draws a comparison of India and Pakistan’s space programs in peaceful and military domains of the technologies, how either country is faring in regional and / or global power competition and the impact on conventional battle space and full spectrum of warfare.


Peaceful Dimension

India’s space policy is to develop viable space technologies for socio-economic uplift. The four peaceful objectives of its space program are (1) satellite based communication for telecommunication, TV, search and rescue, tele-education, tele-medicine etc.; (2) satellite-based remote sensing for resource survey, management, defence, security and environmental monitoring; (3) meteorological applications; and (4) development and operationalization of indigenous satellite and launch vehicles for providing space services. [11] 

Organisation and Development

India’s space program can be divided in to two developmental stages. In 1960s it set up an administrative framework and gained experience with elementary rocket operations such as sounding rockets-that carry light payloads such as scientific experiments into and beyond the atmosphere (100-300 km altitudes). [12] Initial low-tech space operations commenced in the early 1960s, ISRO was formed to coordinate these activities in 1969, and the Indian DOS was established in 1972. ISRO is part of the DOS. Coordination between ISRO and other space-related agencies is politically carried out through the ISC, which reports to the Prime Minister’s office.

The latter phase of the first stage of India’s space program mainly experimental, low capability projects that allowed Indian scientists to gain experience in the construction and operation of satellites an launchers-ISRO built Bhaskara earth observation satellites and the Ariane Payload Experiment communication satellite. SLV-3 rocket, which resembled US’s Scout rocket, tests were done between 1979 and 1983. [13] 

ANTRIX: Antrix Corporation Limited, ISRO: Indian Space Research Organization, SCL: Semiconductor Laboratory, NE-SAC: North Eastern Space Applications Center, NARL: National Atmospheric Research Laboratory, PRL: Physical Research Laboratory, NRSA: National Remote Sensing Agency, IISU: ISRO Inertial System Unit, DECU: Development and Educational Communication Unit, MCF: Master Control Facility, RRSSCs: Regional Remote Sensing Service Centers, ISTRAC: ISRO Telemetry, Tracking and Command Network, LEOS: Laboratory for Electro-Optic System, SAC: Space Applications Center, ISAC: ISRO Satellite Center, LPSC: Liquid Propulsion System Center, VSCC: Vikram Sarabhai Space Center, SDSC: Satish Dhawan Space Center.

In the second stage was launched in mid-1980s and involved building of more powerful PSLV-that was used to launch IRS satellite. It was followed by GSLV that launched INSAT, which is a meteorological and telecommunications platform. After GSLV’s 2001 test flight India’s space program has emerged to rank as the world’s fifth most advanced program if such GEO capability. [14] 

Technology Transfer and Foreign Assistance

Besides technology transfers, Indian scientists – like Abdul Kalam and Homi Bhaba – received training at NAS that helped India in developing and testing sounding rockets and SLVs. ISRO’s solid fuelled space launch rockets based on the American supplied ‘Scout’ rockets were used as the first stage of Agni. [15] Agni’s IRBM program owes its genesis to the adaption of civilian space technology and generous technical assistance provided by the Soviet Union, the US, France and Germany since the inception of India’s Space Research Program in 1962. [16] 

DRDO’s 1970s ‘Devil’ short range missile program was a reverse engineering and adaptation of Soviet supplied SA-2 SAM. [17] India’s negotiations to acquire Russian S-300 ABM system weren’t successful and former declined American offer of Patriot-II ABM systems and have shown interest in Patriot-III instead. [18] India also received active Israeli cooperation in copying their Elbit ABM system and naming it as AXO-but the said system’s existence and claimed success is shrouded in mystery. [19] 

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In the early 1990s, Russia provided some cryogenic rocket engines to India for its GSLV program. France also offered help in development of cryogenic engines. French also assisted Indians in developing Centaure sounding rockets and in liquid propulsion technologies. India was also allowed to build Viking rockets under license. Germany’s assistance was the most significant because it continued even after it joined MTCR in 1987. Germans assisted India in guidance mechanism, rocket testing, Motorola processors’ related software and use of composite materials; which was diverted to military use.

Satellite Launch Vehicle Capability

India’s SLVs have progressed from SLV-3, 35 kg payload and 300 km altitude LEO, to GSLV with 2,500 kg payload and 36,000 km GEO. They are developing 200-ton solid fuel engine and a 20-ton cryogenic engine for more powerful GSLVs that would have greater payload capabilities. The SLV program has met failures too-only five out of eight (62%) SLV-3 and ASLV launches were successful, while four out of five (80%) of PSLV launches have been successful. [20] 

Missile Program and MIRV Capability

India has created a growing infrastructure, … for the utilisation of space technology and assets in space for … diverse sectors … India is, therefore, committed to the peaceful pursuit of space technology and to preserve outer space … exclusively for peaceful uses. We share the concerns about the dangers of deployment of weapons in the outer space and believe that this will not be in our collective interest.

-Statement by Jayant Prasad, PRI to CD, Geneva

February 2, 2006

India’s missile program partially overlaps with, while being partly distinct from, India’s space from. In July 1983, New Delhi embarked upon an IGMDP. The IGMDP [21] was initially allocated a budget of US$130 million and by 1994 US$275 million to develop SLV-3. Agni missile directly derived from the Indian space program’s SLV-3. [22] Missile scientist Abdul Kalam, who headed the SLV-3 project at ISRO, moved to DRDO to direct India’s missile program with a dozen scientists-thus benefitting military from purely scientific program. Later Agni-2’s solid fuel second stage was built by ISRO. Despite being more powerful than SLV-3, India’s subsequent satellite launchers, the ASLV and PSLV, have not found direct applications as ballistic missiles as ballistic missiles. Agni is light and therefore more transportable; it provides for an ideal IRBM system. The ASLV and PSLV theoretically have a 4,000 and 8,000 km range, respectively, and would bring China’s heartland within range when launched from secure launch sites in East and Central India. Yet it would be difficult to deploy ASLV and PSLV as module, truck- or rail-mounted missiles because of their large diameter strap-on boosters. Moreover, these rockets are extremely heavy and have a poor thrust to weight ratio. Development of later – long range versions of Agni addressed these issues.

India already possesses incipient capabilities to MIRV its missiles, but this does not mean that it can immediately secure a full-fledged capability, because there are a range of [technical] conditions that would affect its development of MIRV technology. [23] Given the dual use nature of space technology, the increased civilian space cooperation between the US and India will result in transfer of technology that may bring integration and delivery capabilities warheads into India’s arsenal. [24] 

The developments in last ten years show [25] – such as a series of successful satellite launches and January 2000 successful launch and recovery mission of the Space Recovery Experiment capsule – validate that India has critical enabling technology necessary for the research and development of a MIRV capability. [26] 

Satellite Reconnaissance

India achieved a moderate satellite reconnaissance capability with 23-meters resolution in 1980s in the visible and near-infrared band, permitting the detection of large military installations. [27] However, since 1995 the IRS series of satellites, which can produce 5.8-meter resolution imagery, are in orbit. In 2001 India launched a Technology Experiment Satellite to a 568 km orbit; its one-meter resolution panchromatic camera with two-to-three-day repeat cycle provided useful reconnaissance capabilities. [28] These advancements will enhance Indian target acquisition and engagement capabilities and can also be integrated in to their BMD system. [29] There is tangible advancement towards providing secure and dedicated communication links to the Indian military. For instance, IAF is likely to launch its own satellite by end 2010. [30] 


India’s communications satellites have some military capabilities but have not had specifically designated military functions. INSAT are not optimal for military operation because of their inappropriate frequency range and its frequency bands can be easily jammed. [31] 

Budget Allocation

India has spent approximately US$ 4 billion plus on space program in last one decade. [32] The following table gives details of spending between 2002 and 2008. [33] 














INSAT operational







Space Technology







Space Applications







Space Sciences







Administration and other programs







Total US$ (Million) approx.







BMD Shield

Pursuit of missile defence system has direct implications on nature of space program. Contrary to their earlier stance, Indian leadership welcomes US decision to … This shift in stance and subsequent mixed statements clearly corroborate the existing evidence of pursuit of BMD system. India’s interest in missile defence dates back several years, though the main focus is on TMD. [34] In India US NMD is seen as directly affecting its national security in different ways. India perceives threat to its homeland from short-range and intermediate-range missiles and BMD shield provides the solution. [35] 

In July 2000, Indian Defence Minister was critical of US NMD and considered it problematic in future [36] and a week later gave an ambivalent response-saying that though NMD may alter global nuclear balance, it would not affect India’s nuclear program. [37] 

India and Israel successfully negotiated integrating the technology of Akash and the Arrow-2, and also the Rajendra radar with the Arrow-2’s Green-pine radar, which can track a missile from a distance of 300 km. [38] 

Geostrategic Implications

India and Pakistan apparently eschew the notion of the militarisation of space as it may lead to dominance by some, an arms race and asymmetric responses by others. Like its case to legitimise the nuclear weapons program, India will play the China card for pursuing missile defence program thus fuelling a space race. Some Indian scholars consider China’s 2007 ASAT test as a destabilising incident that can potentially start a space race in Asia. [39] “Future historians may well see Beijing’s use of a missile to destroy an old weather satellite as having more lasting global impact than the Iraq war,” commented International Herald Tribune on January 21, 2007 and similar concerns were raised by other segments of media. [40] 

The linkage is not China specific only but the Indian strategic culture takes a global perspective on security. America’s continued qualitative and quantitative build-up entails expanded arsenal, multiple-warhead (MIRVed missiles), and the adoption of an alert posture. Consequently, Indians would perceive such a change threatening and a build-up would commence, followed by a response from Pakistan-thus triggering regional instability. Some American critics echo similar views. [41] Indians argue that a China antagonised by American missile defence may draw even closer to Pakistan and accelerate strategic cooperation with it. [42] 

In August 1999, India announced a draft nuclear doctrine that declared that its nuclear forces would be based on a triad and that “space-based and other assets shall be created to provide early warning, communications, [and] damage/detonation assessment for this force. [43] This draft doctrine was updated in 2003 by another document which shows that Delhi has been pursuing many of the technologies required for a nuclear force that are already becoming available through the country’s space program. [44] 

India’s space assets were developed for economic purposes but have found some (and offer the potential for further military applications. The space applications that India developed in 1980s and 1990s could have been purchased at a slightly higher cost from international market-but it offers long term economic and technological benefits. The somewhat limited capabilities of India’s space assets compared to those of the world’s major space-faring agencies restrict New Delhi’s performance and international competitiveness but do not significantly detract from its modest economic, political, and military utility. India’s space assets are now sufficiently advanced to enhance its nuclear deterrent and strategic capabilities. These technological advancements could well coincide with, and further facilitate, India’s emergence as a major player in the Asia-Pacific [45] in the short term.

India’s SLV program and its other space assets provide New Delhi with a satellite-based reconnaissance and communications capability. Such advance space capabilities, combined with the modernisation of India’s conventional forces and the development of its nuclear forces, can significantly influence the strategic relationship between India, Pakistan and China-thus creating broader security implications for the Asia-Pacific region.

It can be argued that delivering satellites in to orbit do not require the same accuracy that is needed in a MIRV but it cannot be denied that India is making improvements – even if these are modest. The challenge faced by the Indian nuclear scientists and missile engineers is to develop thermo-nuclear weapons with miniaturised warheads and strong-small-lightweight missiles to deliver these. While development of missiles can continue unnoticed, testing thermonuclear weapons will spark tit-for-tat response from Pakistan and has implications for successful conclusion of CTBT that US will not like to be derailed.

The Pakistani response to American NMD and to the Indian interest in missile defence has been negative. At the CD in Geneva, former Foreign Secretary Inamul Haq argued that the creation of “shields” would cause others to improve their “lances,” which could “heighten tensions between major powers, jeopardize the global strategic balance and turn back the disarmament clock.” [46] The Pakistani view is in accord with the domino theory on NMD, which springs from a MAD-based perception that one man’s missile defence is another’s first-strike vulnerability.

Brigadier (R) Naeem Salik commenting on BMD system’s fallout on non-proliferation wrote:

The second cause of concern for Pakistan is the possibility that, in view of the lingering differences over BMD systems between US-Russia on the one hand and US and China on the other, there is a real danger of unhinging the whole structure of the international non-proliferation regime with obvious negative impact on the international security and stability. Already these differences have brought to a virtual halt the progress on the ongoing treaty negotiations at the CD at Geneva. In this regard we see the adoption of a ‘consultative’ approach to narrow down the differences with the critics of the scheme, as is evident from President Bush’s pronouncement of May 1, 2001, as a positive development. Pakistan can only hope that China’s legitimate security concerns would be addressed before a final decision on deployment is taken by the US. [47] 



On February 3, 2005 President Pervez Musharraf gave a vision statement for the SUPARCO during a visit to its Headquarters (HQ). He envisioned SUPARCO to develop the capability to make and launch different types of satellites – especially communications satellites, remote sensing satellites, weather satellites, and indeed satellites that would meet the needs of “national security”. He expressed the need for indigenous satellite launch vehicles (SLVs), gave a target of 10-15 years to put a man in space and on the moon and extended government’s full support. [48] 

Organisation and Development [49] 

SUPARCO is the national space agency of Pakistan and it was established in 1961 – upgraded to the status of Commission in 1981 – with the purpose of peaceful exploration and applications. SUPARCO is devoted to Research and Development (R&D) in space science and space technology for “peaceful uses of outer space” and socioeconomic uplift of the country.

Pakistan has developed three satellites so far: Badr-1, Badr-B and Paksat-1. Badr-1 was Pakistan’s first indigenously developed satellite launched in 1990 on-board a communication package to demonstrate the technology. Badr-B was a indigenously built experimental satellite launched in December 2001. It has four experimental payloads on-board i.e. CCD camera, storage and forwarding experiment, dosimeter and battery-end-of-charge detection. Paksat-1, was a communication satellite, leased, relocated and parked at 380 East slot with the primary objective to protect the only slot left for Pakistan in space to safeguard it strategic interests. It has 30 C-and transponders on-board.

FTR : Flight Test Range

IS : Industrial Services

IT : Information Technology

SGS: Satellite Ground Station

SPARCENT: Space Research Center

IRS : Ionospheric Res Station

SPARC : Sp App Res Center

SPARS : Sp App Res Station

STW: Space Technology Wing

SEW: Space Electronics Wing

SARW: Space Applications & Res Wing

R&IW: Range & Instrumentation Wing

IST: Institute of Space TechnologyNational Satellite Development Program

The National Satellite Development Program (NSDP) comprises a communication satellite (Paksat-1R) to replace the existing leased satellite, two remote sensing satellite systems (RSS-1 and 2) with minimum 2.5m resolution and human resource development for the program.

The 1000 kg Paksat-1R is scheduled to be launched by May 2011 with a commissioning and operation scheduled in June 2011. The satellite will have a life span of fifteen years and will be launched in geostationary orbit. It will operate in C and Ku frequency bands for domestic coverage primarily and will have footprint coverage over Afghanistan, Bangladesh, India, Iran, Iraq, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, UAE, Saudi Arabia, western China, turkey, Syria, Jordan, Somalia, Ethiopia, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Oman, Myanmar, Eretria and parts of Europe.

SUPARCO’s future communication satellite programs include PAKSAT-1R, PAKSAT-2R, PAKSAT-FR, PAKSAT-DR and PAKSAT-ER in C, Ku and Ka bands. Its meteorological program includes polar orbiting and geostationary satellites. In a four phased program they plan to inject 200 kg satellites at 600-1000 km altitude, followed by two stages of 500-800 kg satellites and 1 ton and above satellites. In the last phase, SUPARCO plans will launch 1 ton class satellites of up to 36000 km range.

In house Satellite Design and Development

SUPARCO is actively pursuing know-how in satellite development program through design and development of a proto-type Remote Sensing Satellite-1 (PRSS-1) that will


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