China’s ‘cock-a-snook’ to India and US, arms Pakistan with anti-satellite radars SLC-18

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SLC-18 radar which can destroy satellites in space

By Haider Abbas

There have been conflicting reports in media, from quite some time, that China was withdrawing its troops from the Indian border, but all were laid to rest when Chief of Army Staff of India Manoj Pandey, on November 13, announced that Peoples Liberation Army of China has neither reduced its forces from Line of Actual Control nor has scaled down its infrastructure development for its faster troop mobility and connectivity. Therefore, the duel between China and India is to stay, and here Pakistan comes quite handy for China, which over the decades China has used as its proxy to disturb India, despite the fact that India and Pakistan have civilizational issues and have gone to war for four times.

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There has been a pro-US establishment in Pakistan, since its PM Imran Khan had been ousted in April last, which quite understandably angered China, as China and Pakistan are considered to be all-weather-friends, but now there is news pouring that China, out of its common enemy India, is again there to arm Pakistan, and this time, by providing one of its most advanced satellite to keep a track on India. In a report published in The Week 1 on November 12, it speaks that ‘ Pakistan’s Chinese radar to counter India’s ‘eyes in the sky’. SLC-18 radar is effective in detecting and tracking multiple Low Earth Objects satellites. Put on public display for the first time at the ongoing China International Aviation and Aerospace Exhibition in Zhuhai (Guangdong) that ends on Sunday (Nov 8-13), the 10-metre tall SLC-18 radar is reported to be very effective in detecting and tracking multiple LEO satellites in all situations and circumstances. The huge advantage is that it comes at a very cheap price. Confirming the Chinese intention to supply Pakistan with the radar system, a Chinese-state-owned mouthpiece quoted Sun Lei, CETC deputy general manager, as saying: “This radar provides relatively economical ground-based monitoring of space targets to serve friendly countries ( read Pakistan, North Korea and Russia ) offering situational awareness capabilities against low-orbiting satellites to balance the battlefield posture.” Militarily, China is the biggest weapons exporter to Pakistan and supplies the latter with aircraft, missiles and submarines.’

The issue is sure to be of concern to India and as till date India had enjoyed a considerable edge over Pakistan, as nearly the whole of Pakistan was under the Indian scanner reported Times of India 2 on March 12, 2019, that ‘Indian satellites can map 87% land area of Pakistan. Indian Satellites are capable of mapping 87% of Pakistan’s total 8.8 lakh square km of land, which is about 7.7 lakh square kms of vigilance.’ India, therefore had a tremendous advantage over Pakistan for the information it had over Pakistan as India was able to have real-time-minute-to-minute information of Pakistan’s troops/tanks movement etc, by putting 21 of the 55 satellites in the space, for land mapping of Pakistan, while the rest are for communication/navigation weather forecast etc. The Indian Union Minister Jitender Singh, had declared in Parliament, on February 10, that India has 21 satellites for earth observation purposes, as per Pib.gov.in 3

Pakistan was handicapped and sought refuge from China to make an Indian equalizer and China gave its very big and powerful radar ( SLC-18) to Pakistan, and poked ‘cock-a-snook’ to not only India but also to US, which has one of the most powerful space satellites system in the world. Pakistan is now to arm itself to meet to India in its unchallenged territory and will deploy this radar on its various locations, which will help Pakistan know the Indian satellite movement over Pakistan, and take counter-moves i.e. halting its troops/military movement, or may be, even trying to destroy Indian satellites too. When China can give its radar, then, it can be also understood that very soon Pakistan may lay its hands on China’s anti-satellite weapons also.
It may also be mentioned that China and US are already much ahead into their space-wars as China has around 500 of its satellites while US has deployed 3000 satellites, many of which are privately owned by tycoons like Elion Musk who owns ‘Starlink’ as his internet service operated by SpaceX, and China is now to ‘nip in the bud’, Elon Musk satellites too, informed Eurasian Times 4 on November 10, that ‘China has unveiled the SLC-18 P band active phased array radar to target space threats at the ongoing Zhuhai Airshow. The radar system quickly grabbed the attention of Chinese internet users on the Chinese microblogging website Weibo, with several netizens labeling it as an Anti-Starlink radar.The radar is primarily designed for space target surveillance, and analysts believe it can target low earth orbit (LEO) satellites. LEO satellites orbit at a distance of 500 to 2,000 kilometers from the earth.’ China is to definitely to put to exercise its space-prowess when China would go to war over Taiwan with US, and when Elon Musk would help to provide ‘information’ against China.

China has made it clear that it would never accept ‘Starlink’ and the way Elon Musk has come handy to US against Russia in the war in Ukraine, China would never like to see it happen in Taiwan and this is what the lesson China has drawn from the Russian front. But, how India is to position itself against China’s belligerence? Indian interests lie with QUAD which has US, Japan and Australia in it, and QUAD nations should start to share data with each other, as satellite-based maritime monitoring initiative is already in place ( May 24) but now military-data-sharing between QUAD is the need of the time, as China is a common foe to QUAD.

There is a war brimming in the world as China is engaged with India on its borders, is making Pakistan to counter the edge India has in space, while India is with US against China in Taiwan, but India, ought to expedite its efforts into launching more satellites as the world has already entered into space-wars. India had signed one of the most powerful ‘Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement’ with the outgoing US President Donald Trump, and this has entwined India’s destiny with US. India has its strategic interests against its greatest threat- China. Only time would tell the outcome of these conflicts.

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The writer is a former UP State Information Commissioner and writes on international politics.

References:
1-https://www.theweek.in/news/india/2022/11/12/pakistans-chinese-radar-to-counter-indias-eyes-in-the-sky.html
2-https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/isro-satellites-can-map-87-land-area-of-pakistan-in-hd/articleshow/68196974.cms
3- https://pib.gov.in/PressReleasePage.aspx?PRID=1797196
4- https://eurasiantimes.com/netizens-warn-elon-musk-as-china-displays-mammoth-anti-starlink/

 

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