Although the Space Agreement between China and Pakistan has already been signed in 2019 yet the nature of that agreement is largely based upon the exploration and remote sensing. It is highly unlikely that China would collaborate with Pakistan in the weaponization of space to counterbalance Indo-Israeli Nexus. Under such circumstances where Indo-Israel Space Collaboration is advancing rapidly, Pakistan needs to ally with Iran for the following reasons.
The militarization of Iranian Space Program
Unlike Pakistan, Iran has accomplished major advancements in its space program. Regarding the militarization of space, Iran has already launched its first military satellite into orbit named “Noor” on April 22, 2020. The major achievement is the launch pad known as “Qassed” which has the capability of mobility. Using such technology, Pakistan would not only be able to develop its own indigenous launching capabilities but would be a major step towards the development of Inter-Continental Ballistic Missiles (ICBMs). The jointly coordinated space program would also open up the scenarios for more consolidated military cooperation and would be the major attempt to jointly conduct anti-terrorism operations. This will create the confidence-building measure (CBM) between the two states especially in the region of Baluchistan which is the major daunting point for the relations of both the states.
Halting Israel Movements in the Indian Ocean
Through collaborating with India in the space program, Israel’s ambition of marking its presence in the Indian Ocean and to curb “Islamic Fundamentalism” can be tackled through the Iranian submarines and armed speed boats. Israel’s main aim is to keep the Iranian movement in check while its presence in the Indian Ocean would benefit Indian capability of launching the strikes from submarines. By consolidating its naval bases in the Indian Ocean, Israel would also be able to exercise the extended deterrence causing much uneasiness to both Iran and Pakistan. Since Iran is the formidable naval power in the Persian Gulf and also possesses the median and mini-submarines, like Ghadir Class which is capable of launching rockets into the Indian Ocean, Pakistan can expect to gain significant leverage in terms of naval security through cooperation with Iran. This would balance the Israeli presence, in fact, the pre-emptive measure could even prevent Israel from expanding its fleet to the Indian Ocean. Eventually, Pakistan would be able to prevent Indian aggression in the Indian Ocean.
Strategic Balancers in South Asia and the Middle East
Both Pakistan and Iran are the major contenders of assuming the pivotal role in their respective regions of South Asia and the Middle East. As Pakistan acts as the balancer for Indian hegemonic designs in South Asia, likewise, Iran is the revisionist power which aims to neutralize the Israeli threat of Nuclear Weapons in the Middle East. Additionally, both Pakistan and Iran are advocating the freedom of Kashmir and Palestine in their regions which are currently under occupation by Indian Army and Israeli Defence Forces respectively. This provides the opportunity to both Pakistan and Iran to join hands in their common goal of security.
Growing Indo-Israeli Ties and Iranian Dejection
Indian inclination towards Israel is the consistent cause of dissatisfaction for Iran for whom Israel is the main hindrance towards its regional policy. Iran has openly shown its discontent by criticizing Indian activities in Jammu and Kashmir. Moreover, since the withdrawal of the US from JCPOA and resuming of sanctions upon Iran, India has reduced its dependence on Iranian oil, hence, creating a further rift between the relations of the two states. Although Iran and India still share the economic ties especially through the joint venture of the development of Chahbahar Port yet Pakistan has the opportunity to avert the Indian-centric Iranian sentiments towards itself. The major steps towards this could be the resumption of Iran-Pakistan Gas Pipeline. In short, the more India moves towards Israel, it will create frustration for Iranians due to their regional objectives and Pakistan can find ample space to rethink its relations with Iran
Pakistan’s relations with Iran are more of the “frenemies” due to divergent regional objectives. Pakistan’s relations with Saudi Arabia made the former away from Iran while Iran’s relations with India were always perceived sceptically in Pakistan. However, the tides seem to be changing. The main factor in this regard can be China since it shares cordial relations with Pakistan and strategic relations with Iran as well. Moreover, since Chinese investments are pouring into Pakistan for the China-Pak Economic Corridor (CPEC) Project, China-Iran Strategic Deal of $400 Billion is also underway.
Additionally, as Iran dropped India from keys projects related to Chahbahar Port, the friction between Pakistan and Iran can now be minimized. Instead of becoming rivals in port and shipments, Gawadar and Chahbahar can now prove to be the sister projects of each other, taking the Pak-Iran regional partnership towards further consolidation. Once such Confidence Building Measures (CBMs) are adopted, the joint Space Program can be practically envisaged. Although the idea is still infant yet the proper mechanism, carefully held negotiations and resumption of Iran-Pak Gas Pipeline Project can prove to be the pretext of space cooperation between the two states. The pragmatism should now have prevailed as the fast-changing security dynamics of the region compels both the states to venture through the new paths in order to secure their borders and uphold the sovereignty.
Note: This article is Part 2 of the two-part series about the broader theme of “Space Militarization in Subcontinent“.
DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy and position of Regional Rapport.