India launched its one of most significant space project South Asia Satellite (GSAT-9) into a Geosynchronous Transfer Orbit (GTO) on 5th May 2017. Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Maldives, Nepal and Sri Lanka, along with India will get benefitted from this satellite.
To Strengthen its ‘Neighbourhood First’ policy, in 2014, India unilaterally proposed the gift of a satellite to SAARC nations. All member benefiting nations hailed the gesture except Pakistan. Pakistan decided not to participate in this project.
This project is estimated to cost India around ₹450 crore. All services of South Asia Satellite will be provided for free to neighboring countries.
What is South Asia Satellite?
The South Asia Satellite or GSAT-9 is a geosynchronous communications and meteorology satellite developed by India through its space agency ISRO for SAARC region. The satellite was taken into space by GSLV-F09 from the Second Launch Pad (SLP) at Satish Dhawan Space Centre SHAR (SDSC SHAR), Sriharikota, Andhra Pradesh the space port of India.
The South Asia satellite weighs 2,230 kilograms and is carrying 12 top-of-the-line communication transponders.
The new satellite will provide telecommunications (TV, DTH, VSAT, Internet etc), disaster management, mapping terrain and natural resources and weather forecasting services, among others.
With the launch of South Asia Satellite and dedicating it to neighbours, India has emerged as a regional soft power. Recently with Mars Orbiter Mission and record-breaking launch of 104 mini-satellites with a single rocket, India established itself as a reliable low-cost space operator. India has launched many missions for commercial gain but this is the first time when space technology has been used as a tool of foreign policy.
In 2011 and 2013 China launched two satellites one Pakistan and Sri Lanka respectively. Experts say the project was a part of space diplomacy and aimed at countering China’s growing influence in South Asia.
Why not Pakistan?
South Asia Satellite service includes all SAARC nations excluding Pakistan. Pakistan kept itself away from taking this Indian gift and pulled out of project saying it has its own space programs at Pakistani space agency Space and Upper Atmosphere Research Commission (SUPARCO).
Experts say Pakistan has lost a big opportunity as space program of Pakistan is in very poor state and it is highly unlikely to see any improvement in near future. Among all South Asian Countries, only India is capable of developing and launching such project.
“GSLV-F09 mission is the eleventh flight of India’s Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV) and its fourth consecutive flight with the indigenous Cryogenic Upper Stage (CUS) after GSLV-D5, D6 and F05. The vehicle is designed to inject 2 – 2.5 ton class of satellites into GTO. The overall length of GSLV-F09 is 49.1 m.” ISRO said in a statement.