Pakistan launches communication satellite with Chinese assistance

Pakistan's space agency on Thursday launched its second satellite in a month from a launch site in China's northwest Sichuan province.
Chinese assistance:- Pakistan's space agency on Thursday launched its second satellite in a month from a launch site in China's northwest Sichuan province. [VOA]
Chinese assistance:- Pakistan's space agency on Thursday launched its second satellite in a month from a launch site in China's northwest Sichuan province. [VOA]

Chinese assistance:- Pakistan's space agency on Thursday launched its second satellite in a month from a launch site in China's northwest Sichuan province.

According to Pakistan’s Space & Upper Atmosphere Research Commission (SUPARCO), PakSAT-MM1 is a high-power multimission satellite designed to provide a range of communication services.

"Based on advanced communication technologies, PakSAT-MM1 will play a pivotal role in the socio-economic uplift of the country," SUPARCO said on its website, adding that the satellite is "the hallmark of technological cooperation between" China and Pakistan.

SUPARCO added, "It will prove to be a stepping stone in the transformation of the country into digital Pakistan."

Chinese state news agency Xinhua said Thursday that the country successfully launched Pakistan's multimission communications satellite.

"At 20:12 on May 30, my country [China] successfully launched Pakistan's multi-mission communication satellite into space using the Long March 3B carrier rocket at the Xichang Satellite Launch Center," Xinhua said. "The satellite smoothly entered its predetermined orbit, marking a complete success of the launch mission."

According to Xinhua, the launch marks the 524th flight of the Long March series of carrier rockets.

Pakistani Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif congratulated the nation on the launch of the satellite, according to a tweet by the Government of Pakistan.

"The satellite will play a key role in improving the communication system, enhancing e-commerce, economic activities, and e-governance," Sharif said.

According to PTV, Pakistan's state broadcaster, the satellite will provide top-tier internet services nationwide, enhancing TV broadcasts, cellular connectivity and broadband. Its services are set to launch in August.

Prior space collaboration

Beijing-Islamabad space cooperation dates to 1990 when a communication satellite developed by Pakistan was launched into space aboard a Chinese Long March 2E rocket.

This collaboration has since evolved, culminating in the recent launch of Pakistan's first lunar satellite, ICUBE-Qamar (ICUBE-Q), on May 3, aboard China's Long March 5 rocket from the Wenchang Space Launch Center in Hainan province.

The ICUBE-Q satellite, a joint project between Pakistan's Institute of Space Technology, SUPARCO, and Shanghai Jiao Tong University, captured its first image of the moon on May 8, according to Science and Technology Commission of Shanghai.

Ge Ping, deputy director of the China National Space Administration’s Lunar Exploration and Space Engineering Center, said that this ongoing cooperation enhances friendship between the two countries and fosters diverse aerospace collaboration.

"I believe that this cooperation is of great significance to promoting friendly relations between the two countries and enriching people's understanding of the moon," Ge said. "We welcome Pakistan's participation in China's lunar and deep space exploration missions, and we will conduct extensive exchanges and cooperation related to space technology."

During the first satellite launch this month, Pakistan's Sharif remarked in an official statement that the friendship between Pakistan and China has "gone beyond borders to reach space."

He described the Pakistan-China friendship as "higher than the Himalayas, deeper than the oceans, and sweeter than honey," emphasizing that it has now expanded to transcend the boundaries of space with this mission.

On its website, Pakistan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs says Pakistan regards China as one of its closest friends and partners, while China considers Pakistan its "Iron Brother."

Economically, China stands as Pakistan's largest trading partner and a significant investor, particularly in the infrastructure and energy sectors, according to Pakistan's Foreign Ministry.

Pakistan, hosting a multibillion-dollar flagship project of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, maintains a close relationship with its neighbor China.

Pakistan shares a border with China's northwest region of Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, where some Western parliaments and the U.S. government accuse Beijing of committing genocide and crimes against humanity against its Muslim Uyghur population. However, Beijing vehemently denies these accusations, and Pakistan supports Beijing's policy in Xinjiang.

Notably, Pakistan delivered a statement on behalf of more than 70 countries at the U.N. General Assembly last October, expressing support for China's actions in Xinjiang toward Uyghur Muslims.

BRI and beyond

Beijing views space cooperation as integral to its BRI, referring to these endeavors as the "Space Silk Road," according to the U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee.

China's Space Silk Road aims to connect China's BRI partner countries through China's BeiDou Navigation Satellite System (BDS).

BDS serves as an alternative to the U.S. Global Positioning System (GPS), Russia's GLONASS, and the European Galileo system. BDS offers China and its BRI partners global positioning, navigation and tracking capabilities for both civilian and military uses.

In 2018, Pakistan ended reliance on the GPS system and fully transitioned to China's BDS, which covers the entire country.

According to the U.S. Institute of Peace in Washington, China has become Pakistan's foremost arms supplier in value terms over the past decade, with Pakistan receiving nearly 40% of Beijing's arms exports.

Additionally, China has supported Pakistan's nuclear weaponization efforts, aiding in bomb designs and explosive component development, and enhancing nuclear delivery capabilities by developing and transferring solid-propellant missiles. VOA/SP