Pakistan’s space agency, the Space and Upper Atmosphere Research Commission (SUPARCO), is believed to be in talks with the United Arab Emirates (UAE) on developing an agenda for possible space cooperation, according to a senior SUPARCO official quoted in the UAE newspaper Khaleej Times.
SUPARCO were in the UAE last week where they were a prominent exhibitor at the Global Space Congress in Abu Dhabi for the first time. At their stand SUPARCO shared information with conference participants on their satellite projects.
Pakistan’s focus on space has increased over the past few years. It currently has two Earth observation satellites in orbit – the Pakistan Remote Sensing Satellite-1 (PRSS-1) and PakTES-1A both launched from China in 2018 – and the PakSat-MM1 and PakSat-1R communications satellites – with further Earth observation and communication satellite launches expected in the coming years.
Pakistan also plans on sending its first astronaut into space by 2022 with the assistance of China.
“We are in initial talks with the UAE for potential collaboration,” the secretary of SUPARCO, Dr Arif Ali, told the Khaleej Times on the sidelines of the Global Space Congress in Abu Dhabi.
“We have initial talks with them (the UAE) and our participation in this year’s congress is to have cooperation with UAE’s space sector, particularly in our strong areas such as satellite manufacturing and related-applications. If you have more satellites in space, then you have more opportunities of having international collaboration. At the same time, you gain something for your country and offer something beneficial for humanity. We believe in the peaceful use of outer space.”
Until now Pakistan has exclusively cooperated with China for developing its growing space programme. If reports that Pakistan is in discussions with the UAE about space cooperation are true, then this follows recent geopolitical developments involving the UAE helping Pakistan address its indebtedness to Beijing, incurred in part through the costs of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), a signature project of China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).
Both the UAE and Saudi Arabia have recently come to the aid of Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan in his attempt to revive the Pakistani economy and reduce the country’s exclusive reliance on China, by providing loans worth billions of dollars as well as substantial investments.