India yesterday successfully launched the South Asia Satellite that will provide telecommunications, disaster management and weather forecasting services, among others, to seven nations of the region.
The satellite was launched into space from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre in Sriharikota of Andhra Pradesh.
Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) developed the satellite at a cost of Rs 235 crore. The mission life of the satellite is 12 years, reports our New Delhi correspondent.
Seven Saarc countries -- India, Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh, the Maldives, Sri Lanka and Afghanistan -- are part of the project. However, Pakistan opted out stating that it has its own space programme.
The satellite will also provide services in the areas of banking, telecommunications, broadcasting, telemedicine, education and mapping natural resources.
It is equipped with 12 top-of-the-line Ku transponders and the six countries will be given access to at least two.
The participating countries can use the transponders provided they have adequate ground infrastructure like earth stations to receive signals from the satellite.
The launch of the satellite is also seen by South Asia observers as a move to counter China's space diplomacy in the region. China helped its long-time ally Pakistan and Sri Lanka launch communication satellites in 2011 and 2012.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina yesterday stressed the need for a fruitful engagement in various fields between the South Asian countries for the betterment of the people in the region.
“We want to cooperate with all countries for creating an area of peace in South Asia where we can live as good neighbours and pursue constructive policies for the benefit of our people, as envisioned by our Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman,” she said.
The PM was taking part in a videoconference with the top leaders of the six other South Asian nations from the Gono Bhaban on the occasion of the launch, reports BSS.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena, Maldivian President Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom, Bhutanese Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay and Nepalese Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal joined the video conference from their respective countries.
Hasina said Bangladesh and India jointly achieved many successes in connecting the regional countries. She hoped launching of South Asia Satellite would change the face of South Asia.
With the launching of the satellite, Bangladesh and India expanded connectivity from land, water and air to space, she said.
“I'm sure that cooperation in space will definitely lead us to the ambitious technological enhancement for the benefit of the region.”
She expressed optimism that the satellite would open a new horizon of cooperation in the region.
Hasina congratulated Modi and his government for the successful launch of the satellite.
She wished the South Asian leaders good health and long life, and the friendly people of the region peace, progress and prosperity.
Foreign Minister AH Mahmood Ali, PM's Adviser HT Imam, State Minister for Foreign Affairs Shahriar Alam, State Minister for Post and Telecommunications Tarana Halim were present at the Gono Bhaban.
Speaking on the occasion, Modi said the launch of the South Asia Satellite marked the fulfilment of India's commitment and also the beginning of the journey to build the most advanced frontier of the seven countries' partnership.
He thanked the leaders of the participating countries for their strong and valuable support that “translated a vision into reality”.
Addressing the programme by video conference, heads of state and governments of the participating countries thanked India for implementing the project.
The South Asia Satellite is India's most significant space project since February's record-breaking launch of 104 mini satellites with a single rocket.
A satellite focusing on disaster communications could be particularly beneficial to South Asia, home to about a quarter of the world's population and prone to tropical cyclones, heat waves, earthquakes, tsunamis, landslides and floods.