During his recent visit to China, Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan and his Chinese counterparts signed a number of agreements that commit both countries to space, science, and technology cooperation.
The science and technology relationship between Islamabad and Beijing dates back to the 1970’s, and has typically involved technology transfers from China to Pakistan; Chinese provision of training and education to Pakistani scientists and engineers; and joint research projects and programmes. More recently, cooperation between the two countries has deepened and widened thanks to the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), a flagship project of China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).
During Imran Khan’s visit to Beijing, Pakistan and China agreed to expand and deepen their collaboration in the areas of new and emerging technologies such as nanotechnology, biotechnology, and information and communications technology, “which can contribute to improved living standards through their applications in the fields of health, agriculture, water, energy and food security.”
Pakistan and China also agreed to promote the 2012-2020 Space Cooperation Outline between the China National Space Administration (CNSA) and the Pakistan Space and Upper Atmosphere Research Commission (SUPARCO). The two countries expressed their satisfaction on the launch of the Pakistan Remote Sensing Satellite (PRSS-1) earlier in 2018, and have agreed to further strengthen bilateral cooperation in space technology applications. They also agreed to cooperate in human spaceflight with the aim of sending a Pakistani astronaut in to orbit by 2022. The China Manned Space Engineering Office and SUPARCO will sign a framework agreement on human spaceflight cooperation at a later date.
Lastly, the two countries “agreed to enhance their cooperation in the areas of climate change, desertification control, desalination, water management, afforestation and ecological restoration, wetland protection and restoration, wildlife protection, forestry industry development, disaster management and risk reduction, and other areas of mutual interest.” Many of these issues will require the use of satellite technology.
Space cooperation between Pakistan and China even extends to space security efforts in multilateral forums such as the United Nations.
At a recent meeting of the UN General Assembly’s Disarmament and International Security Committee, Pakistan’s delegate Usman Jadoon said that, “We need to evolve universal and equitable regulations that can guarantee the exclusively peaceful nature of outer space, before it turns into a new realm of conflict and arms race,” and that the proposed Sino-Russian draft Treaty on the Prevention of the Placement of Weapons in Outer Space (PPWT) provides “a concrete basis for substantive negotiations.”