Pakistan today blamed India for its exclusion from the ‘SAARC Satellite’ project, saying New Delhi was not willing to develop the venture on a collaborative basis. Pakistan’s claim came on a day when India successfully launched the ‘South Asia Satellite’ to provide communications and disaster support to neighbouring countries.
“During the 18th SAARC Summit, India offered to ‘gift’ a satellite to SAARC member states, to be named as the so-called ‘SAARC Satellite’. Subsequently, however, India made it clear that it would build, launch and operate the satellite solely,” Pakistan Foreign Office Spokesperson Nafees Zakaria said.
However, its registration with International Telecommunication Union (ITU) was to be done as a ‘SAARC Satellite’, he said Zakaria claimed that Pakistan, which has its own space programme at an advanced level, was ready to share its expertise and technological know-how and was keen to participate in the project.
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“However, as India was not willing to develop the project on a collaborative basis, it was not possible for Pakistan to support it as a regional project under the umbrella of SAARC. The Satellite was then renamed as ‘South Asia Satellite’ as the project was taken out of the SAARC ambit,” he said.
Seven of the eight SAARC countries — India, Sri Lanka, Bhutan, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Nepal and Maldives — are part of the ambitious project.
Giving a fillip to India’s new age space diplomacy and “neighbourhood first” policy, the Rs 235 crore satellite GSAT-9 built as part of a Rs 450 crore project and touted as an ‘invaluable gift’ to India’s neighbours is seen as a significant move in countering Chinese interests in the region. The project is funded entirely by India.
The cuboid-shaped 2,230 kg satellite named SAS will enable a full range of services to the neighbours, including in telecommunication, television, direct-to-home, VSATs, tele-education and telemedicine. The South Asian Satellite (SAS) mission life is 12 years.