India embarks on 'stratospheric diplomacy', gifts INR 450 Cr to South Asia

India embarks on 'stratospheric diplomacy', gifts INR 450 Cr to South Asia

The satellite will enable a full range of applications and services to neighbour countries in the areas of telecommunication and broadcasting applications viz. television, DTH, VSATs and others.

Capitalising on its space technology advantage in South Asia, India announced that it will engage in 'stratospheric diplomacy' through Rs 450 crores gift for its neighbours.

India is opening its heart out to its neighbours. Neighbourhood first is now being extended beyond the stratosphere as Government of India has decided to gift 'South Asia Satellite' to SAARC countries. Nepal, Bhutan, Maldives, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka have agreed to be part of this mission, confirms a government official.

For the first time, New Delhi is flexing its prowess of space technology by embarking on an unprecedented and un-chartered 'stratospheric diplomacy' through a special INR 450 crores gift for south Asians.

On May 5, ISRO’s Geo-synchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV), in its 11th mission will carry the message of peace over the skies of the Sriharikota Island.

The communication satellite program will cost the participating nations almost $1,500 million over its 12 year life cycle. Prime Minister Modi, who is known to be a 'visionary space buff', has elevated the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) in to orbit through this programme.

"Prime Minister Modi has actually extended his slogan 'Sab Ka Saath Sab Ka Vikas' to India's neighbourhood essentially to service the needs of the poor in South Asia," explained Prashant Agarwal, an IIT Kanpur-trained engineer and point person in the Ministry of External Affairs heading the project.

The South Asia Satellite is reported to have 12 Ku band transponders with a coverage extending all over the South Asia region which India's neighbours can make use of to enhance communications. Each country will receive access to at least one transponder through which they could beam their own content and programming.

However, each country has to develop its own ground infrastructure technology. India has also offered to extend assistance with this regard.

The satellite will enable a full range of applications and services to neighbour countries in the areas of telecommunication and broadcasting applications viz. television, direct-to-home (DTH), very small aperture terminals (VSATs), tele-education, telemedicine and disaster management support," the government explained.

Since the South Asian region is prone to earthquakes, cyclones, floods, tsunamis, the satellite will also have the capability to provide 'secure hotlines' for participating countries during disasters.

In its usual tone of defiance to India's offering, Pakistan fully opted out of the project suggesting, 'Pakistan has its own space program'. The other seven nations part of SAARC have jumped on-board with Afghanistan still ironing out some technical details in Kabul.

The nearly 50 metre tall rocket weighs about 412 tons will carry the 'South Asia Satellite' or what the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) still call GSAT-9.

Costing Rs 235 crore, the 2230-kg satellite has been built in three years and is solely a communications satellite.

Just a few weeks into his tenure On June 30 2014, Prime Minister Modi asked, "The space community to take up the challenge of developing a SAARC satellite that we can dedicate to our neighbourhood as a gift from India.”

Speaking at the SAARC summit on November 26, 2014, Modi said, "India's gift of a satellite for the SAARC region will benefit us all in areas like education, telemedicine, disaster response, resource management, weather forecasting and communication."

Among India's neighbours, three countries already have communication satellites, with Sri Lanka and Pakistan having been assisted by China. Afghanistan also has an old India-made satellite, acquired from Europe.

Sources: Agencies and Ministry of External Affairs

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