South Asia Satellite is India's project, not regional effort

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The South Asia Satellite is a geosynchronous communications and meteorology satellite by Indian Space Research Organisation (Isro) for the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (Saarc) region made up of eight countries, including Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, Nepal, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Sri Lanka and Maldives. The mission life is 12 years and it cost 235 crore Indian Rupees.

Congratulating the Indian Prime Minister via satellite technology from the President's House in Anuradhapura, President Sirisena said that this is a historic milestone to accomplish progress on cooperation and development among the SAARC countries. Then there's Mangalayan, Asia's first successful Mars orbiter, which at $74 million cost less than the $100 million spent to make the space thriller Gravity. According to news reports, the satellite will provide a significant capability to each of the participating countries in terms of DTH (direct-to-home), besides linking among the countries for disaster information transfer.

The PM further added that on May 5th ISRO would launch this satellite. The GSAT-9 satellite was planned as a SAARC Satellite, but in the final moment Pakistan backed out which resulted as South Asia Satellite.

The GSAT-9 is a Geostationary Communication Satellite and data from it will be shared with the other five countries. Islamabad had refused to accept India's "gift", which Narendra Modi had proposed soon after becoming the Prime Minister in 2014.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina today expressed her belief that any cooperation in space exploration will definitely take the South Asian countries to the ambitious technological enhancement for the benefit of the region.

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"The benefits of this satellite will go a long way in meeting the developmental needs of the countries participating in this project", Modi said in his Mann ki Baat.

The launch is viewed as a move by India to emphasise its role as the power centre in the region and gain trust from its neighbours at a time when China is making similar inroads. "We are very proud of them", he added.

This was the eleventh flight of GSLV and its fourth consecutive flight with the indigenous cryogenic upper stage. While seven nations that are part of SAARC, including India, will use the satellite, the biggest beneficiaries could be Bhutan and Maldives as the rest have their own fledgling space programmes.

If the GSAT-9 meets its objectives, New Delhi will be better equipped to lead regional efforts in humanitarian aid and disaster relief operations (HADR), weather monitoring, and telemedicine in a disaster prone region.