Pakistan v India: Conflict moves to outer space as countries race to put human in orbit
The Information Ministry of Pakistan announced on Thursday that the country intends to carry out its first space mission in 2022, with Prime Minister Imran Khan having already approved the plan at a federal cabinet meeting.
The proposed deadline is the same year that Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi hopes to launch the country’s first manned mission to space, which will take place in collaboration with Russia.
“We have resolved that by 2022, when India celebrates 75 years of independence or maybe even before that, certainly some of our young boys and girls will unfurl the tricolor in space,” PM Modi said during a speech on Independence Day on August 15.
Pakistan’s plan means that the two countries, which have been in conflict for 75 years, are officially battling it out to be the fourth nation in space.
According to Indian news channel NDTV, an agreement between Pakistan Space and Upper Atmosphere Research Commission (SUPARCO) and a Chinese company has already been signed.
It comes ahead of Khan’s first-ever visit to China on November 3, when he will hold talks with Chinese President Xi Jinping in Beijing, local media report.
India launched its first lunar probe a decade ago, while it successfully guided a spacecraft into orbit around Mars in 2014.
The new battlefield has emerged amid renewed tensions between the two neighboring countries, as the latest efforts to hold talks to guarantee peace and stability in the region failed yet again.
PM Khan had invited India to hold peace talks on the sidelines of the 73rd UN General Assembly in New York last month.
However, after initially agreeing to it, India backed out last minute, claiming any dialogue would be “meaningless” given the “brutal” killing of three of its policemen in the contended region of Kashmir at the hands of Pakistani militants. It further blamed Pakistan for “glorifying terrorists.”
Khan hit back by saying that India’s response was a “negative” one, and that leadership in New Delhi should “shun arrogance” to enable peace talks.
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EDITORIAL NOTE: A previous version of this article mistakenly referred to Imran Khan as the Indian prime minister. He is the prime minister of Pakistan.