THE competition between the US and China to achieve space dominance has intensified in recent years. Both countries are actively developing advanced space technologies like hypersonic missiles, satellite-killing missiles, etc. to gain military and economic advantages in space. This space race poses serious challenges to Pakistan’s national security. The use of space for military purposes has been a concern since the dawn of the space age, and the development of these technologies has been the subject of international debate and diplomatic efforts to prevent an arms race in space. The Outer Space Treaty, signed by the United States and the Soviet Union in 1967, prohibits the placement of nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction in orbit, but it does not explicitly prohibit the use of other types of weapons in space. However, it is important to note that space has become an increasingly important domain for national security, economic, and scientific purposes. The United States and China are two major players in this arena and have made significant advancements in space technology and exploration. There have been concerns raised about the potential weaponization of space, including the development and deployment of anti-satellite weapons, which could disrupt or destroy vital communication and navigation systems. However, both countries have also emphasized the importance of peaceful cooperation in space and have participated in joint space projects with other countries. Nations need to continue to work together to ensure the responsible use of space and to avoid the development of any technologies that could potentially destabilize the global balance of power. The US and China are currently engaged in a space competition, as both countries seek to establish themselves as leaders in space exploration and technology. This competition involves a range of activities, including human spaceflight, robotic missions, and the development of new space technologies. One of the most visible aspects of the US-China space competition is the race to return humans to the Moon. NASA’s Artemis program aims to land astronauts on the Moon by 2024, while China’s Chang’e program has already landed several robotic missions on the Moon and plans to send humans to the lunar surface shortly. In addition to lunar exploration, the US and China are also competing in other areas of space technology, such as satellite development, space-based communications and navigation, and the development of advanced rockets and spacecraft. The US and China are not the only countries involved in space competition, however, as other nations such as Russia, Japan, and the European Space Agency are also pursuing ambitious space programs. Overall, the global space race is driving innovation and pushing the boundaries of what is possible in space exploration and technology. The US and China’s competition in outer space have significant implications for Pakistan, as it is a country that has also been investing in space technology and exploration in recent years. One implication is that the competition between the US and China could lead to increased investment and innovation in space technology, which could benefit Pakistan by creating new opportunities for collaboration and technological advancement. At the same time, the competition between the US and China could also lead to increased geopolitical tensions and competition for resources, which could have negative implications for Pakistan’s space program. For example, if the US and China begin competing for access to resources on the Moon or other celestial bodies, it could limit Pakistan’s ability to participate in space exploration or benefit from the resources available in space. Another potential implication is that Pakistan may be forced to choose between aligning itself with the US or China in the space domain. This could have broader implications for Pakistan’s foreign policy and its relationship with these major powers. The US and China are developing anti-satellite weapons and hypersonic glide vehicles that can disable each other’s satellites. If used, these weapons could severely damage the space infrastructure of many countries including Pakistan, affecting critical services like communication, navigation, and weather forecasting. Pakistan’s military forces heavily rely on satellites for intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance. Losing these space-based capabilities would significantly reduce Pakistan’s military preparedness. Space activities have become an important driver of economic growth and technological development. By achieving space dominance, the US and China can gain economic advantages at the cost of other countries. For example, they can monopolize the satellite launch market, restrict access to resources in space, and control space-based solar power generation. This could slow down Pakistan’s space program and space-related industries, limiting its economic progress. As the US and China compete for power in space, they are forming exclusive alliances and partnerships with other countries. If Pakistan allies solely with either bloc, it may face diplomatic backlash from the other side. But staying neutral in this space race can also isolate Pakistan diplomatically. This dilemma creates complications for Pakistan in developing cooperative partnerships in space amid the US-China rivalry. In conclusion, the competition between the US and China for space dominance presents serious challenges to Pakistan’s national security. It is affecting Pakistan’s military capabilities, economic interests, and diplomatic relations. To safeguard its security, Pakistan needs to carefully navigate this space race by balancing its partnerships with both countries and investing in space technologies for self-reliance. Overall, Pakistan must focus on its space program that can withstand external pressures amid the intensifying US-China competition in outer space. —The writer is Researcher at Centre for International Strategic Studies, AJK. Email:

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Center for International Strategic Studies AJK, King Abdullah Campus Chatter kalas Muzaffarabad, Azad Jammu and Kashmir