What should have happened decades ago finally happened on May 5, 2017, when India launched the South Asia Satellite or GSAT-9 which would benefit the people of south Asia from GSLV rocket. The six nations of South Asia which would benefit from the satellite hailed this project and termed it as a milestone in the history of south Asia. In a teleconference after the launch, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi thanked the participating nations and said the launch would indeed benefit the people of South Asia.
Modi in his address said that the people of Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, the Maldives, Nepal and Sri Lanka, along with India, “will together achieve effective communication; better governance, better banking and better education in remote areas; more predictable weather forecasting, land monitoring and efficient resource mapping; linking people with top end medical services through telemedicine; and a quick response to natural disasters.”
The 2,230-kg satellite is, in fact, the first such satellite for south Asia which will help in communication, broadcasting and Internet services, disaster management, telemedicine, tele-education, and weather forecasting in South Asia. The South Asia is one of the poorest regions in the world and a sizable population of the world lives here. Many countries in this region, in fact, do not have resources to afford the space odyssey. The South Asia Satellite has been built and launched by India at an estimated cost of Rs 450 crore. The best part is that its services would be completely free of charge for the participating nations.
The South Asia Satellite, for now, will move in the oval orbit about 169 kilometers in the nearest and 36,000 kilometers in the farthest distance from the earth. The satellite would be controlled from Master control Facility in Hassan in Karnataka and eventually, its orbit would be made circular.
Unfortunately, Pakistan which is one of the most important countries of South Asia did not participate in the South Asia Satellite and therefore would not be able to avail the advantages of the satellite. The Pakistan was earlier interested in building the satellite on collaborative basis but refused when India insisted on building it all alone.
Many feel that the Pakistan opted out due to some espionage concerns but that has been denied by the Pakistan authorities.
Pakistan might, however, be jittery of the satellite as it would give a tremendous boost to Indian influence in the region. It is also being said that India launched this satellite to counter Beijing’s growing influence and interest in the region. China has already launched two communication satellites for Pakistan and Sri Lanka in 2011 and 2012 respectively. This would, indeed, be India’s answer to Beijing’s forays in its backyard.