India launched a regional satellite on Friday that was backed by all countries in the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation except for Pakistan.
The South Asian Satellite, built by the Indian Space Research Organisation, was sent to space aboard the GSAT-F09 rocket from Sriharikota island off southeastern India’s Andhra Pradesh coast.
Following the launch, Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi joined the leaders of several South Asian countries who backed the project, including Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, Bhutanese Premier Tshering Tobgay, Maldives President Abdulla Yameen, Nepalese Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal “Prachanda” and Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena in a video conference to mark the special occasion.
In his remarks, Modi said: “The launch of the South Asia Satellite marks the fulfilment of India’s commitment and also the beginning of the journey to build the most advanced frontier of our partnership.”
He said the project will touch the lives of people of Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Maldives, Nepal, Sri Lanka and India through regional cooperation in the area of space technology applications in telecommunication and broadcasting, tele-medicine, tele-education, e-governance, banking/ATM services, cellular back-haul, meteorological data transmission, disaster response and networking of academic and research institutions.
“The South Asia Satellite demonstrates that our collective choices for our citizens will bring us together for cooperation, not conflict; development, not destruction; and prosperity not poverty,” the Indian leader added.
The satellite project was earlier called the SAARC Satellite, but it was changed to just South Asian Satellite when Pakistan and India developed differences over who would build it.
In his weekly briefing in the Pakistani capital Islamabad on Friday, Foreign Ministry spokesman Nafees Zakaria said India had made it clear that it would build, launch and operate the satellite on its own despite the fact that it would be registered with the International Telecommunication Union as SAARC Satellite.
Pakistan, which has its own advanced space program, wanted to share its expertise and technological know-how in the project, but India declined the offer to build the satellite collaboratively, Zakaria said.
It was because of this difference the satellite was renamed the South Asian Satellite instead, he added.