Space Race 2.0: Militarization of Space

This increased militarization of space as a result of the expansion of military-space activities has added to already intense competition, threatening regional peace and security.

What was once merely a fantasy in science fiction literature has become a reality in the
twenty-first century, with outer space serving as a new battlefield for geo-political conflicts and states eager to acquire a strategic edge. With fresh enthusiasm for space exploration and technical advancements, many refer to the 21st-century space race as the “Space Race 2.0”. While this race continues, the militarization of space figures out to be the main worry, particularly in
assembly-disassembly zones such as South Asia. This article examines the intricate structure of India and Pakistan’s space programmes, as well as the implications of this competition towards regional stability and space research.

India-Pakistan Rivalry in Space

This increased militarization of space as a result of the expansion of military-space activities has added to already intense competition, threatening regional peace and security. The landing of India’s Chandrayaan-3 on the Moon on August 23, 2023, is a significant milestone in the global space battle. As a pioneer with an emphasis on lunar exploration and notably technical advancements, the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) is all set to shape the spiritual accomplishments and ice race of the whole cosmos. India’s space goals are fueled mostly by influences from its neighbours, particularly its competition with China and Pakistan. Pakistan’s space programme is being run under the Pakistan Space & Upper Atmosphere Research Commission (SUPARCO) with China’s backup assistance. The collaboration of the Defence Space Agency (DSA) and Defence Space Research Agency (DSRO) of the Indian Armed Forces with the Indian space industry, demonstrates that India is ready to bid farewell to traditional systems and move forward into the twenty-first century, where space warfare plays a critical role in ensuring national security.

Pakistan’s space militarization contains both risks and opportunities. Pakistan’s space programme, which sought to become the first South Asian Muslim state to enter the space race, faced several challenges including significant economic and technical constraints. As the space world perceives, China as a key component of Pakistan’s strategic partnership with Beijing, the opportunities for international collaboration keep growing. This adds a layer of complication to Pakistan’s already challenging geo-political tussles. Space programmes should ideally match with national security measures, while also boosting economic growth.

India-China-Pakistan Triad: Geopolitical Implications

The dynamic triangular relationship between India, China, and Pakistan, which forms the playing field, creates a complicated competitive arena. Reportedly, China makes significant contributions to Pakistan’s space programme by providing help for both kinetic and non-kinetic space weapons development. While India sees China’s engagement in Pakistan’s space programme, as a direct threat to its security interests, the latter hopes to demonstrate its rising relevance. The Chinese space aid collaboration with Pakistan is part of a larger geo-political conflict including regional diplomacy, and it offers China an advantage in the race for dominance of South Asia. Aside from that India’s and its allies’ Indo-Pacific foreign policy aims to counterbalance and contain Chinese regional hegemony, which heightens tensions and competitiveness among the nations. The QUAD, which includes India, the United States, Japan, and Australia, has expanded sixfold in terms of collaboration in astrobiology, cyber-security, and cutting-edge technology, implying a shared effort to counter China’s dominance in the Indo-Pacific area.

Pakistan’s Strategic Imperatives

Pakistan would have to ride an ambiguity-resolving line between the ideals of strategic autonomy, national security interests, and economic expansion in space. Governmental instability, as well as budgetary and scientific limits, have been key impediments to the country’s space programme throughout its history. Nonetheless, the South Asian country has the potential to use Chinese experience for technical advancement and human capacity development in the space sector. The CPEC, a flagship initiative of China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), is believed to include investments in Pakistani space technology and infrastructure facilities as a demonstration of China’s commitment to the project. Furthermore, by participating in the Chang’e-6 lunar mission, Pakistan also demonstrates increased interest in not just space exploration but also in observational study and research.

Regional Stability and Diplomatic Engagement

Space rivalry may grow more fierce, thus regional stability and diplomatic engagements should be central to space partnerships aimed at resolving conflicts and strengthening collaboration. As nuclear-armed countries, India and Pakistan must work together to resolve flashpoints and boost trust levels for the space voyage to be successful and safe. The United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA), plays a critical role in multi-lateral mediation that takes place at the international level. UNOOSA aims to promote openness, trust, and peaceful dispute settlement in space. Activities in collaboration with other regional cooperation initiatives, such as the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) and the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC), can create platforms for dialogue, while also benefiting from collaborations in space exploration and technology.


Finally, the space competition between India and Pakistan exhibits, how closely linked
geo-political consequences, scientific discoveries, and critical security characteristics are, in the twenty-first century as a whole. On the one hand, the rivalry encourages high levels of military deployment and undermines regional security; on the other, it raises the task of discipline and collaboration in the space domain. To alleviate tensions and enhance space cooperation, India and Pakistan must continue to use confidence-building measures like as discussions and increased diplomatic interaction. Through the use of international partnerships, a boost to domestic technological growth, and the promotion of regional collaboration, both nations will be able to optimize space exploration for humanity’s benefit while also achieving peaceful coexistence in South Asia and beyond.

Waleed Sami
Waleed Sami
Waleed Sami is a postgraduate student of Strategic Studies from the Centre for International Peace and Stability (CIPS), a prestigious school of the National University of Science and Technology (NUST), Islamabad. Waleed has completed his bachelor's from the National Defence University Islamabad (NDU) in International Relations. Waleed is also a research intern at the Institute of Strategic Studies Islamabad (ISSI) and served as a junior researcher at the South Asia Strategic Stability Institute (SASSI) and a research intern at the Institute of Policy Studies (IPS).