China and Pakistan have signed an agreement on space exploration, marking a new phase in space science cooperation including manned missions between the all-weather allies.
The agreement was signed on April 27 during the visit of Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan to China for the 2nd Belt and Road Forum (BRF), the China National Space Administration (CNSA) said in a statement.
The space agreement will serve as a high-level foundation for cooperation in space science and exploration. Both nations will conduct scientific and technological experiments, astronaut training, along with manned space applications and achievement transformation, official media quoted the CNSA statement as saying on April 29.
The space agreement between China and Pakistan also comes close on the heels of India's successful Anti-Satellite (ASAT) Missile test last month.
The test made India the fourth country in the world after the US, Russia and China to acquire the strategic capability to shoot down enemy satellites. China had conducted such a test in January 2007 when its anti-satellite missile destroyed a weather satellite.
Under the agreement, the CNSA and the Pakistan Space and Upper Atmosphere Research Commission will establish a China-Pakistan space committee chaired by top officials from both sides to address future collaborative issues.
China has advanced space programme with successful manned missions besides exploration missions to Moon. China is also building its space station which was expected to be ready by 2022. It has also unveiled plans to send spacecraft to Mars and Jupiter.
"The newly-signed space exploration agreement between China and Pakistan on manned space missions manifests their more profound cooperation on the peaceful use of outer space," state-run Global Times quoted experts as saying.
Since Pakistan is China's all-weather friend, China is willing to provide know-how to foster Pakistan's technological development on the use of outer space, Lan Jianxue, an associate research fellow at the China Institute of International Studies, told the Global Times on April 29.
"China-Pakistan space cooperation will help Pakistan in terms of satellite monitoring of natural disasters and agricultural production, land and resources surveying, and waste handling in a microgravity environment," Lan said, adding that China will also benefit from the cooperation, including for commercial applications of space technology, investment security and counter-terrorism.
In 2018, China sent two Pakistan satellites into orbit. The PRSS-1, Pakistan's first optical remote sensing satellite, and the PakTES-1A, a smaller observation craft, were both lifted into space by China's Long March-2C carrier rocket.
"The current agreement signifies that their cooperation is not limited to infrastructure and resources, it also concerns technology and innovation," Lan said.