The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) is all set to launch the Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV-MkII) rocket carrying the South Asia Satellite (GSAT-9). The South Asia Satellite was to be originally named as SAARC Satellite. However, it was renamed after Pakistan opted out of the programme.
After coming to power in May 2014, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had asked ISRO scientists to develop a SAARC Satellite that could be dedicated to neighbouring countries as a “gift from India.”
South Asia Satellite would provide communication and disaster support, connectivity among the countries who have accepted India’s gift. The satellite would also provide a significant capability to each participating country in terms of DTH, certain VSAT capacity plus linking among the states for disaster information transfer.
Among the South Asian countries, Pakistan refused to be a part of the project. Islamabad took the decision after participating in the planning meeting on June 22, 2015, suggesting it had its “own space programme,” according to PTI. Pakistan had launched its first satellite ICUBE-1 in November 2013. According to Dawn, the ICUBE-1 is 1.12 kg heavy and its volume is ten cubic centimetres.
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Other countries in the South Asian region like India, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Nepal, the Maldives and Sri Lanka are not much advanced in satellite technology. Hence, it was prudent for them to join India’s project. Among these countries, Sri Lanka has a communication satellite with the assistance of China, while Bangladesh is expected to get its own satellite sometime this year. Nepal has also floated tenders to acquire two satellites and Afghanistan has an old India-made satellite which it procured from Europe. Bhutan and Maldives don’t have any satellite of their own and they would benefit a lot from the South Asia Satellite.
Bangladesh is not even ready to benefit from the South Asia Satellite yet. According to a report by Bangladesh’ Daily Star, the country does not have a landing station which can set up a direct link with the satellite. The country is expected to set up a downlink station in Gazipur in the next 4-5 months.
Recently in his Mann Ki Baat programme, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had talked about the benefits of South Asia Satellite. “On the 5th of May, India will launch the South Asia Satellite. The capacities of this satellite and the facilities it provides will go a long way in addressing South Asia’s economic and developmental priorities. Natural resources mapping, telemedicine, the field of education, deeper IT connectivity or fostering people to people contact – this satellite will prove to be a boon in the progress of the entire region.
“It is an important step by India to enhance co-operation with the entire South Asia… it is an invaluable gift. This is an appropriate example of our commitment towards South Asia. I welcome all the South Asian countries who have joined us on the South Asia Satellite in this momentous endeavour…. My best wishes to them,” the PM said.