Amid the Panama leaks, Pakistan’s Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif came up with an idea of addressing jalsas (rallies) in the whole country. Starting from the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, he is offering laptops and millions of rupees for development projects to save his seat with taxpayers’ money. While the leader of one of the main opposition parties, Imran Khan, has a dream of becoming prime minister with no prior experience of running a government, and is asking us for ‘dharnas’ (sit-in protests), and this time in Raiwind, Lahore. Whereas, the Chief of Army Staff General Raheel Sharif endorsed the idea of across the board accountability and sacked six army officers over corruption. Several actors again analysed this situation as a clash between civil and military policies.
Well, isn’t that a story!
Allow us to tell you another story from the neighbouring eastern border country, India. On April 28, 2016 Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) launched seventh and final satellite to complete the Indian Regional Navigation Satellite System (IRNSS), which will be called NAVIC (Navigation with Indian Constellation) as announced by the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
It all started when Indian army failed in monitoring Pakistani troops, and denial of the US to give access of its GPS system to India during the Kargil War. Though, recently, Senior Fellow at the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses, Ajey Lele, has denied this Kargil story saying there is no official confirmation.
However, several Indian newspapers second the fact that the main objective was the military use, and the chief beneficiary of this system is the Indian military. The total cost of the project was 211 million dollars, and it will provide accurate information regarding surveillance, reconnaissance, imaging, navigation and communications in India as well as from the extended area of 1,500 kilometres in the region.
This system will offer two types of services, Standard Positioning Service for civilian users and Restricted Service, which is an encrypted service for military and agencies. Along with NAVIC, India is already working on fourth generation GSAT dedicated military communication satellites. In this respect, ISRO successfully launched GSAT-6 in August 2015, which transmits five spot beams over the Indian mainland with help of a very exceptionally huge antenna. In modern network-centric warfare a large antenna will assist Indian strategic forces to communicate with each other on a secure band.
Similarly, India’s GSAT-7 satellite was successfully launched in August 2013, programmed to assist the Indian Navy to enhance its blue water combat skills. Surely, it is imposing security challenges for Pakistan while strengthening the Indian battlefield strategy, robust system for location identification and navigational support. It will connect all three domains that are sea-based assets (warships, nuclear submarines and air craft carries), land based assets (troops formation, conventional war tech, ballistic and cruise missiles) and air force assets (combat aircrafts).
Besides, Indian surveillance capabilities will then be able to get accurate information on Pakistani territory, its China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, logistics, sensitive naval, air force, military installations and deployment, etc. Pakistan established its space programme — Pakistan Space and Upper Atmosphere Research Commission (SUPARCO) -- eight years earlier than the Indian space organisation, but SUPARCO is now nowhere near ISRO. It is obvious that priorities of successive Pakistan governments are off the beam in term of emphasis on space technology. Today Indian department of space has budget of round about one billion dollars, whereas SUPARCO’s size in terms of monetary funds is 30.6 million dollars. India signed a framework agreement with NASA for future cooperation in 2008, and in 2016, inked agreements for launching satellites from the UK and Singapore.
The Indian defence ministry has already hinted that space warfare is a priority area till 2025 under “Technology Perspective and Capability Roadmap.” It aims to assure key technology requirements of the Indian armed forces and integrated warfare by reducing the risk in battlefield with the capable system of delivering information on real time basis.
Pakistan should also explore such avenues to create a platform so that SUPARCO can also deliver indigenous navigational satellite system. For instance, Pakistan developed the tactical nuclear weapons (TNWs) to successfully counter the so-called proactive strategy of the Indian Cold Start Doctrine (CSD). We are proud of our scientists and engineers yet the decision of its deployment and use is reserved with the National Command Authority.
By this mean, we will get an alternative way of shadowing Indian military strategy, troops and assets deployment in case CSD is implemented, and we can also assure effective maneuverability to deploy TNWs, ballistic and cruise missiles. Considerably, the civil uses and benefits of the navigational system are huge, which will also improve our disaster management expertise.
Even though our fragile economy is the main hurdle in the way of social and technological development, nonetheless government, opposition parties and military establishments must plan to allocate appropriate budget for these purposes because development of advance technology is the need of time.
Ahsan Ali Zahid is an M. Phil scholar in School of Politics and International Relations, Quaid-e-Azam University, Islamabad. Hasan Ehtisham is an M. Phil scholar in Department of Strategic Studies, Quaid-e-Azam University, Islamabad