Pakistan’s Flag With A Moon, India’s Flag On The Moon: A Tale Of Contrasting Achievements – OpEd


Every nation irrespective of its size and system has its flag, which stands for a nation’s land, people, culture, and government. A national flag is an important symbol for each country. To better understand a country and its governance system and culture, we can learn what the different features of its flag represent. Likewise, Pakistan and India have their flags made of different shades and colors.

Pakistan’s flag is made of white, and green with a crescent and the five-pointed star. White portion represents – peace and honesty, symbolizing the role of religious minorities. The green part– is hope, joy, and economic success. The combined star and crescent serve as a symbol of Islam, with the crescent representing progress and the five-pointed star representing light and knowledge. The flag symbolizes Pakistan’s commitment to a welfare state and informed citizenry within the orbit of Islam as well as the welfare and protection of the rights of religious minorities.

Contrary to Pakistan’s flag, the Indian flag does not represent any religion. In the national flag of India, there is no moon. The top band is of Saffron color, indicating the strength and courage of the country. The white middle band indicates peace and truth with Dharma Chakra. The last band is green in color showing the fertility, growth, and auspiciousness of the land. The dharma or Ashok chakra at the center stands for movement and growth, with the 24 spokes symbolizing 24 virtues. The twenty-four principles that the spokes represent are — love, courage, patience, peacefulness, , selflessness, self-sacrifice, justice,  sympathy etc.

Though both countries started their journey in 1947 as independent nations, the portrait that emerged from their 76-year journey is altogether different. India is politically, socially, and economically stable. It has developed consistency in its governance structure including a robust health and education system, which has resulted in implanting its flag on the moon’s South Pole.

Chandrayaan-3, which means “Moon craft” in Sanskrit, with its Vikram Sharma lander and Pragyan rover, puts India in exclusive company: Only three other countries—the Soviet Union, the United States, and China—have made successful lunar landings.

Indian Space Research Organization’s (ISRO) third lunar mission Chandrayaan-3, launched on July 14, made a successful landing on the Moon’s surface on August 23, made India, the first nation to land a spacecraft on the moon’s south pole, days after a Russian probe crashed in the same region – an historic moment for the world’s most populous Asian country.

How did India achieve landmark success in space technology?

The journey started when Dr. Humayun Kabir encouraged B. C. Roy, the chief minister of West Bengal, to work on the proposal of Sir Ardeshir for an Indian Institute of Technology, IIT. Post-Independence, it was Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru who pioneered the establishment of the Indian Institutes of Technology to provide trained technical personnel of international class to the nation who would act as leaders in technology for the newly born independent India. It was Jawaharlal Nehru’s passionate advocacy of a “scientific temper” and his pioneering role in shaping independent India’s national policy on science that made Chandrayaan 3 possible.

In his 17-year stint as Prime Minister from 1947 to 1964, Nehru gave India a “national” policy on science and built research and educational institutions in a bid to create a “scientific temper” to guide India in all its endeavors, whether scientific, economic, or social. Nehru told the National Academy of Sciences at Calcutta that “science alone can solve India’s problems of hunger and poverty, of insanitation and illiteracy, superstition and deadening custom and tradition, of vast resources running to waste, of a rich country inhabited by starving people.” It was at Nehru’s initiative that the Congress party set up a National Planning Committee in 1939, and invited leading scientists to formulate plans for the scientific, technological, and economic development of the country. Even when he was only the Interim Prime Minister in January 1947 (eight months before independence) Nehru laid the foundation for the National Physical Laboratory, India’s first national laboratory.

To give the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) a boost, Prime Minister Nehru himself assumed its chairmanship. Several national laboratories and research institutes were set up between 1947 and 1964, the year Nehru died of a stroke. Seventeen national laboratories, specializing in different areas of research, came up. Among them were, the Central Electronics Engineering Research Institute at Pilani in Rajasthan (1953); the Defense Research and Development Organization (DRDO) in 1958, and the National Aerospace Laboratories in Bengaluru (1959). 

Within a year after independence, Nehru set up the Atomic Energy Commission and established the Department of Atomic Energy. On 4 August 1956, the Nuclear Research Reactor APSARA was commissioned by the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC) near Bombay. APSARA was the first Nuclear Research Reactor in India and also Asia. Nehru was insistent that nuclear power be used only for peaceful purposes. 

Nehru believed that the sciences admit to no “privileged knowledge”. He was thus firmly against its confinement to special classes or castes in society. The Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO), like other scientific institutions in India, has many people in high positions from humble, lower middle class and non-anglicized backgrounds. And these men and women have scored as many successes as those from elite backgrounds and elite institutions.

Where does Pakistan stand in the IT and space race?

The First mind-blowing question is, Is there any IT institution in Pakistan like IIT in India? Unfortunately, there is no sign of a Pakistani ‘Indian Institute of Technology’. The ITU’s former vice-chancellor and chairperson of Punjab Information Technology Board (PITB), Umar Saif informed that the land set out to build a little MIT for Pakistan has now become “a Bakra Mandi”. This is the biggest manifestation of our policymaker’s seriousness toward IT and space technology. Though we have established NUST, LUMS, and many other institutions, their products do not stand anywhere in front of Indian IITians.

Pakistan’s space organization, Space and Upper Atmosphere Research Commission (SUPARCO) came into being in 1961, established by none other than renowned scientist Abdus Salam, the Nobel prize-winning physicist, eight years before India’s own Space Research Organization (ISRO). Today there is no comparison between the two organizations, with ISRO being one of the best space organizations in the world, whilst our SUPARCO has fallen far behind. The SUPARCO suffered a major setback and failure in its satellite program when the satellite, two years after its launch, was lost in deep space and failed to reassure its orbital slots.

Though the reasons for the failure of SUPARCO are still unclear, and will probably remain so since no formal investigation has ever been conducted, one of the main differences between India and Pakistan’s space agencies is that while one is headed by scientists, the other one though initially was headed by scientists and the last civilian scientist was Dr Abdul Majid, who planned the PAKSAT communication satellite system and satellite launch vehicle projects but later on retired army generals are heading it for the last 11 years.

Secondly, In the ’70s, former Prime Minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto diverted brilliant minds from the Pakistan Space & Upper Atmosphere Research Commission to the Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission (PAEC) to mobilize as much intellectual prowess as possible to pursue nuclear supremacy because Pakistan needed to focus its resources to construct an atomic bomb to ensure its sovereignty and Pakistani scientists proved it by making the country a nuclear power.

The saga of Pakistan’s SUPARCO tells the tale of the failure of not just a single government organization, but the collective intellectual decomposition of a nation. Our ill-treatment with the renowned scientist Abdul Salam was forced to leave the country and Dr. Abdul Qadeer Khan, a Pakistani nuclear physicist and metallurgical engineer known as the “father of Pakistan’s atomic weapons program” remained under house arrest till he breathed last. 

It was not just the goals of SUPARCO that fell but also the national standard of education particularly in the field of IT due to flawed education policies. Since 1947, more than 23 education policies and five-year plans have been presented by successive governments in Pakistan coupled with multiple reforms in curriculum and the last one is a Single National Curriculum but none of them gave the required stranded. Our education system is still facing multifaceted issues of less financial allocations in Asia, ineffective management and supervision protocols, poor examination systems, etc.

Furthermore, Pakistan is in the midst of a ‘poly-crisis’ with political instability, ineffective and highly controversial judicial system, economic crisis, hyperinflation, growing illiteracy and poverty, rampant extremism, population explosion, and at the verge of sociopolitical breakdown. Pakistan has spent 22 years in the last three decades in the IMF’s intensive care, and the country’s economy suffers from some serious ailment.

On the other hand, India is a case in point. According to the World GDP Ranking 2023 list, India is the fifth largest economy in the world in line with other prominent countries like the United States of America, China, Japan, and Germany. It is investing in education, and technology, promoting its soft power, developing sustainable energy projects, and endeavoring to become a great power. Consequently, Last month, India became the first and sole nation to have sent its Chandrayan-3 probe to the Moon’s surface at the South Pole followed by the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) successfully launched its first solar observatory mission dedicated to studying the Sun.

Way forward for Pakistan

Our 76-year journey depicts that living in the past with a sole obsession with external security could cost Pakistan its present and future. The grime situation we are facing today is a powerful reminder to foster national unity against common threats and challenges. It is essential to use our all strength and resources to restructure our economic political social and governance system, promote a culture of peace and diplomacy, and take steps towards improving relations particularly trade relations with the neighboring countries including India.

It is high time for Pakistan to learn from its mistakes and focus on economic security and regional cooperation. Furthermore, Pakistan must prioritize technological progress. Investment in digitalization and technological infrastructure, improve different sectors, such as healthcare, agriculture, mines and minerals, education, infrastructure development, and industry, resulting in greater effectiveness and efficiency as defined in the newly established Special Investment Facilitation Council SIFC, which is the only ray of hope for the debt-ridden nation. 

We should Focus on improving the quality accessibility and inclusiveness of our education system, which is the greatest need of the hour. Pakistani education is not contributing to the knowledgeable and skillful workforce of the society. Moreover, Pakistan should also focus on green energy projects to promote sustainable energy and meet the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Last but not least, both India and Pakistan, instead of arms race, and blame games, need to focus on efforts toward peace, development, and stability in the region. The world is moving towards multi-polarity and improved peaceful ties between Pakistan and India can contribute to the public welfare of both nations. India and Pakistan should need to promote bilateral people-to-people ties, and cultural exchanges, and make use of cricket diplomacy to achieve stability in their bilateral relations.

Sher Khan Bazai

Sher Khan Bazai is a retired civil servant, and a former Secretary of Education in Balochistan, Pakistan. He can be reached at [email protected].

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