India's Mars mission
India's Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV-C25), carrying Mars orbiter, blasts off from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre in Sriharikota (Reuters)

The Chinese media's reaction to India's successful launch of a Mars mission has been mixed. While the Communist Party mouthpiece mixes praise with sarcasm, others cautiously welcome the neighbour's achievement.

In Hong Kong, the South China Morning Post says it was time the mainland realigned its strategy, adding that so far Beijing's policy towards neighbouring countries "was one of neglect, arrogance and chauvinism".

An editorial in the party mouthpiece Global Times pokes India in the eye by juxtaposing the ambitious Mars mission with the country's poverty, and asks if it was prudent for India to spend big sums for getting "a few Mars pictures".

"As poor as India is, New Delhi managed to carry out its Mars exploration program with a budget of only $73 million, much less than the spending of China and Japan," the editorial says, emphasising the "low-cost" Indian mission.

More biting criticism follows. "Nonetheless, it is not immune from critics at home and abroad, who wonder whether it's worthy for a country where more than 350 million people live on less than $1.25 a day and one third of the population are plagued by power shortages to spend millions of dollars travelling hundreds of millions of kilometers for a few Mars pictures."

The write-up condescendingly refers to India's mission as an attempt to play catch-up with Beijing. "New Delhi has set China as its target, while China views the advanced level of the US and Russia as a reference."

The article says India appears to be compromising on it development goals and is focused on "developing space, aircraft carrier and nuclear submarines in spite of its poor conditions".

China Daily quotes experts who said the intense competition between New Delhi and Beijing in aerospace technology is analogous to the space race between Washington and Moscow in the 1960s.

"In the past century, the space race meant the US against the Soviets. In the 21st century, it means India against China ... There is a lot of national pride involved in this," said Pallava Bagla, an Indian science commentator.

A Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson said countries should make "joint efforts to ensure enduring peace and sustainable development of outer space".

"Outer space is shared by the entire mankind. Every country has the right to make peaceful exploration and use of outer space," Hong Lei said at a media briefing.

However, the mainstream global media sees things differently, with CNN saying the mission's successful launch represents a symbolic coup against China and the Wall Street Journal saying it gives India an edge over its larger rival.

"A successful mission by India's Mars orbiter would make the country the first Asian nation to reach the Red Planet - and provide a symbolic coup as neighbouring China steps up its ambitions in space," CNN reported.

"If it succeeds, India's Mars mission would represent a technological leap for the South Asia nation, pushing it ahead of space rivals China and Japan in the field of interplanetary exploration," the WSJ says.

The Indian Space Research Organisation's (ISRO) Mars Orbiter Mission lifted off from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre in Sriharikota in southeast India, giving hope to Indians that the country could become the first in Asia to reach the red planet.

The spacecraft's voyage to Mars, atop a new version of India's Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) rocket, will take 11 months to complete, and it is a long wait to know if the mission will become a success.

If the mission succeeds, India will become only the fourth nation or space agency to land a probe on Mars, after Russia, the United States and the European Space Agency.