ICG Membership: Need Of The Hour For Pakistan

by Nimra Javed
In 2005, United Nations established the International Committee on Global Navigation Satellite Systems (ICG) to enhance and promote the cooperation on matters that are subjected to mutual interests related to civil satellite-based positioning, navigation, timing & value-added services.
China, EU, Russian Federation and United States of America along with the state members of the UN (Australia, Italy, Malaysia, New Zealand, Republic of Korea, United Arab Emirates are the core system providers while EU Space Agency, India, Japan are the current and future space based regional or augmentation system providers. Pakistan has been participating in International Committee on Global Navigation Satellite Systems (ICG) meetings as an observer and also applied for the membership in 2021 in order to further enhance its cooperation and the application was strongly supported by all members of the Committee on its technical merits except for one member which refused to join consensus for extraneous, political reasons. The ICG’s membership will promote compatibility, interoperability, and transparency with current and future satellite navigation systems. Pakistan believes that space is the common heritage of the mankind and it should be used for the peaceful purposes and should remain accessible to all the nations on non-discriminatory basis, irrespective of their level of scientific, technical or economic development. In view this, Pakistan has also ratified all the five United Nations outer space treaties governing the peaceful uses and long-term sustainability of outer space. Pakistan has unveiled its inaugural National Space Policy, marking a pivotal moment in its journey towards scientific advancement. Historically, Pakistan has faced challenges including economic constraints, political instability, and a lack of technical infrastructure and expertise in its pursuit of space technology. However, the new policy adopts a multipronged approach, focusing on private sector involvement, international collaboration, and legislative frameworks to overcome these hurdles. Emphasizing public-private collaborations, promoting STEM education, and leveraging Pakistan’s strategic location for international space diplomacy are key strategies outlined. By focusing on specific niches, fostering a “space culture,” and embracing global partnerships, Pakistan aims to establish itself as a significant player in the global space arena. Pakistan’s global oriented approach is also reflected in Pakistan’s membership in International Astronautical Federation (IAF), Committee on Space Research (COSPAR), Asia-Pacific Space Cooperation Organization (APSCO), and Asia-Pacific Regional Space Agency Forum (APRSAF). Moreover, the main focus of Pakistan’s National Space Program is the pursuit of socio-economic progress. Accordingly, Pakistan uses its space capabilities in diverse fields such as agriculture, health, water management, meteorology, climate change mitigation, health, humanitarian assistance, disaster management, satellite navigation and communication. Pakistan is committed to conducting its outer space activities in a peaceful, transparent, and safe manner according to relevant international norms.
Pakistan is the 5th most populated country of the world and the demand of agriculture is also increasing with increasing population. Pakistan relies heavily on agriculture for its economy yet the country often suffers from food shortages and natural calamities has worsen the situation. According to Food and Agriculture Organization, around 23 percent contribution to the GDP comes from the agriculture and employs 37.4 percent of the national labour force. Due to climate change, Pakistan is facing a lot of trouble in getting enough water and it has changed the annual rainfall patterns and increased the evaporation rates due to which the glaciers are melting at an alarming rate. The changing water level has affected and is still affecting the agriculture productivity, industry, and human consumption and as a result the competition for the water resources is increasing day by day. According to a report by the Pakistan Council of Research in Water Resources, the country’s water availability has lessened from 5,600 m3 per capita in 1947 to 1,017 m3 per capita in 2021. This is well below the international standard of 1,700 m3 per capita and is likely to decline further due to climate change. As glaciers are melting and the water supply for agriculture is further declining and as result the crops yield is decreasing. This is particularly problematic for countries like Pakistan that depends on agriculture for their livelihoods and food security. Furthermore, Pakistan lacks adequate water infrastructure, including dams, reservoirs, and canals, to store and distribute water effectively. Existing infrastructure is often outdated, poorly maintained, and unable to cope with the increasing water demand. Insufficient storage capacity leads to the wastage of monsoon rains and makes the country vulnerable to water shortages during dry periods. It is crucial for Pakistan to prioritize water conservation, enhance storage capacity, promote sustainable agricultural practices, and strengthen international collaborations to ensure a secure and sustainable future. In view of these problematic areas, it is important for Pakistan to get the membership of ICG in order to gain the timely navigation and value-added services. It will help Pakistan to use GNSS technology for the management and protection of the environment, disaster risk reduction, agriculture and food security, emergency response, improving the efficiency in surveying and mapping, and enhancing the safety and effectiveness of transportation. The ICG should grant Pakistan the membership so that it can get the benefits in order to mitigate the worst effects. It will help Pakistan in the utilization of space applications in various sectors like Remote Sensing can be used in mapping and monitoring the agriculture resources, can provide a large-scale multidisciplinary information for monitoring of sustainable usage of water resources, to assess the environmental impacts and in planning the transportation management and infrastructure monitoring. Additionally, the ICG will not be able to pursue its stated objectives effectively if countries are continued to be excluded for short-sighted political point scoring and technical considerations should retain merit so that Pakistan can join this important platform.

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