Bengaluru: Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday virtually pulled off a diplomatic coup. He ensured the presence of leaders of all the South Asian countries through video conferencing, virtually isolating Pakistan, at the launch of the South Asian Satellite, which blasted off from the second launchpad at the Satish Dhawan Space Centre in Sriharikota in Andhra Pradesh.
The GSAT-9 has will provide different communication applications in Ku-band with coverage over South Asian countries, the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) said.
The satellite is India’s gift to its neighbours, in line with Modi’s slogan of participating in the development of the neighbourhood. At the video conference with the heads of the South Asian nations of Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Maldives, Nepal and Sri Lanka, Modi recalled that two years ago, India made a promise to extend advanced space technology for the cause of growth and prosperity of the people of South Asia. He added that he felt that the successful launch of the South Asia Satellite fulfills that commitment.
“With this launch, we have started a journey to build the most advanced frontier of our partnership. With its position high in the sky, this symbol of South Asian cooperation would meet the aspirations of economic progress of more than one and a half billion people in our region,” he remarked.
Data from GSAT-9 will be shared with Nepal, Bhutan, Maldives, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. It was also offered to Pakistan, which turned it down. Afghanistan will also soon be included in the net. The participating nations anticipate a Rs 10,000-crore benefit from the satellite’s 12-year lifespan. The satellite also has the capability to provide secure hotlines among the participating nations.
Maldives President Abdulla Yameen said he hopes that this move will help set aside differences and the countries work together as an organisation that can fulfil hopes. “Sabka saath, sabka vikas,” Yameen said.
Afghanistan president Ashraf Ghani gave vent to his frustration in the wake of Pakistan blocking his country’s land access to India, saying that “if cooperation through land is not possible, it is certainly possible through the sky and we are confident that we will integrate”. He added: “The gap between talk and action is bridged today. The imperative of regional cooperation has been changed to a reality.”
Modi pulled off a diplomatic coup by inviting South Asian leaders for a video conference during GSAT-9’s launch.
But Pakistan’s absence was conspicuous, with the country saying it has its ‘own space programme’.