India’s Priceless Gift to Neighbouring Countries : Why isn’t Pakistan a part of the SAARC satellite?

The SAARC satellite initiative will also complement the present govt’s “Neighbourhood first” policy of cooperation. The much volatile South Asian region needs as many avenues as it can for cooperation and ensuring peace & stability. The SAARC satellite is a step in the right direction. After coming to power in May 2014, PM Narendra Modi had asked ISRO scientists to develop a SAARC satellite that can be dedicated to neighbouring countries as a “gift from India.”

Why isn’t Pakistan a part of the SAARC satellite?

Importantly, Seven of the eight SAARC countries are part of the project as Pakistan decided to opt out stating “it has its own space programme.” Trilok Singh, They didn’t want to be a part of the project- As Simple as That, This satellite was initially to be named as ‘SAARC Satellite’. But the name was changed to ‘South Asia Satellite’ as Islamic Republic of Pakistan refused to be a part of the programme. It’s their choice! If they don’t want to be a part of it, no problem! We aren’t here to wait for Pakistan to come and join us in the development wave of South Asia.

If India is successful in gifting a tech to be used all over Indian Subcontinent, it would establish India as the center of space science in the region. Pakistan has long claimed parity with India. Pakistan has a lot of incentives to delay or obstruct India’s initiative.

Moreover, Assuming Pakistan has put in money, it would demand that its Engineers and Scientists visit ISRO’s super secure labs. Pakistan has a history of stealing tech (AQ Khan stole nuclear blueprints in Europe and smuggled it to Pakistan), transferring high tech to China(Pakistan has in the past sent tomahawk missile to China to Reverse Engineer and allowed Chinese military access to downed US chopper – see links below) and sabotaging India’s security by providing data to Terrorists who then attack India (Mumbai attackers had GPS devices and military training, Dawood Ibrahim has many Pakistani passports,etc)…

Two primary reasons

1) Pakistan is worried that this satellite will give India sensitive data. Location of Pakistan’s army bases, position of the soldiers and other sensitive information. Given the amount of hostility and bloody past we have their concern is genuine.

2) This is more of an ego problem. Our PM proposed ‘SAARC Satellite’ as a gift to all SAARC nations saying that other nations are too poor and don’t have technical ‘Know How’ for space program. This was a slap right on the face of Pakistan, so they opted put saying they have their own plans.

But we all know that how much SUPARCO struggles & how frequent they are at launching satellites. (I’m sure half of the people reading this answer haven’t even heard of SUPARCO)

In fact Nepal & Bangladesh are too launching their communication satellite with foreign assistance. Nepal is still looking for appropriate partner while Bangladesh has already signed deal with Thales & SpaceX.

PM, ‘Mann ki baat’ programme on 30-04-2017, Modi had announced that the South Asia Satellite would be India’s “priceless gift” to its neighbouring countries. On future launches, the ISRO Chairman said, the space agency would launch the GSLV MK III variant which would be followed by Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle in the coming months.

The satellite will be launched on board the space agency’s rocket GSLV-F09. Costing around Rs. 235 crore, the satellite would serve the neighbouring countries through 12 Ku band transponders carried by it and has a mission life of 12 years.

Benefits of a SAARC satellite :-

Event though India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka & Afghanistan operate satellites, India’s leadership & capabilities in this field is unmatched.

  1. It will enhance regional cooperation in remote sensing, meteorology and disaster management. The latter is especially a crucial aspect, considering the region’s vulnerabilities w.r.t natural disasters. E.g.- Nepal Earthquake.
  2. It will help in ensuring that our neighbours interact with us more and continue to stick with us, thus putting a check on the advances of China through its initiatives such as Belt & Road, String of pearls etc.
  3. Will strengthen India’s stature as a space faring nation, thus helping India to exploit commercial space activities worldwide as well aiding in our quest to shape an international space regime.
  4. In Short, The satellite is meant for providing communication and disaster support, connectivity among the countries of South Asia region. It will provide significant capability to each of the participating countries in terms of DTH, certain VSAT capacity, plus linking among the states for disaster information transfer.

India Can; share information from its existing satellites, Offer transponder services, especially for disaster management, offer IRNSS and GAGAN features, look to create a European Space Agency like regional organisation for effective and joint operations…

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