Pakistan’s ‘cold response’ to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ambitious SAARC satellite project has prompted India to go ahead with consultations with other member states of the regional grouping without Islamabad’s participation.
“All SAARC countries have responded positively to the proposal, but Pakistan. Everyone else has responded. It (Pakistan) said that their internal consultation process was still on,” said a senior government official, noting that the government will go ahead with consultation process with other member countries.
“A meeting with the member countries will be held later this month,” ISRO chairman A S Kirankumar told PTI.
After the successful launch of PSLV C-23, along with foreign satellites from Sriharikota last year, Modi had called for a greater cohesion between the SAARC nations and having a satellite for the region.
It was also seen as a move to counter China in South Asia, as its space agency has been involved in launching satellites of several other countries. Following Modi’s call, formal proposals were sent to all countries involved.
After initial responses have been received, ISRO and representatives from SAARC countries will sit together later this month to discuss the nitty-gritty of the project, sources said.
ISRO officials said the endeavour would be to have a communication satellite which the member countries can use for different purposes like disaster management, tele-medicine and education.
“May be we can offer them one transponder. But this is still very much in its preliminary stage and after the consultation process things will be more clearer,” said an official.
Incidentally, some SAARC countries already have communication satellites in place. For instance, Pakistan has a communication satellite PAKSAT-1R, which was launched 2011 with the help of China Great Wall Industry Corporation (CGWIC). More importantly, its space agency Pakistan Space and Upper Atmosphere Research Commission has already been working with Chinese National Space Administration (CNSA).
Unlike other South Asian countries, it also has a reasonably fair infrastructure and manpower in the field of space sector.
Sri Lanka too has launched a communications satellite with the help of China, while Afghanistan has leased a communication satellite.