India is all set to build a satellite tracking and imaging centre in southern Vietnam to provide Hanoi a full time access to pictures from Indian earth observation satellites that cover the region, including China and the South China Sea.
The move is set to deepen ties between India and Vietnam, who both have long-running territorial disputes with China.
Billed as a civilian facility – earth observation satellites have agricultural, scientific and environmental applications – security experts said the improved imaging technology meant the pictures could also be used for military purposes.
“In military terms, this move could be quite significant,” said Collin Koh, a marine security expert at Singapore’s S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies.
“It looks like a win-win for both the sides, filling significant holes for the Vietnamese and expanding the range for the Indians,” added Koh.
The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) will fund and set up the satellite tracking and data reception centre in Ho Chi Minh City to monitor satellite launches.
India has ground stations in the Andaman and Nicobar islands, Brunei, Biak in eastern Indonesia and Mauritius that track its satellites in the initial stages of flight.