India's South Asia satellite is fine, but China is way ahead in wooing neighbours in space

At 4.57 pm on Friday, India launched the 2,230-kg GSAT-9 satellite on board its Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV-9). What was planned as a ‘Saarc satellite’ for all the eight members of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (Saarc) has turned into a ‘South Asia satellite’ after Pakistan-backed out of it.

Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO)'s communication satellite GSAT-9 on-board GSLV-F09 lifts off from Satish Dhawan Space Center in Sriharikota on Friday. PTI

Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO)'s communication satellite GSAT-9 on-board GSLV-F09 lifts off from Satish Dhawan Space Center in Sriharikota on Friday. PTI

Its launch, minus Pakistan, is being billed as the biggest move India has ever made in space diplomacy. It may be. But Afghanistan is still dithering over signing up for the satellite’s services. That leaves India with Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Bhutan, Maldives and Nepal. Each participating country will get at least one of the 12 transponders for free to use them for things ranging from disaster management to internet connectivity.

So why isn’t Afghanistan, the remaining Saarc country, accepting this ‘gift’?

Let’s go back a fortnight.

On 20 April, China’s Industry and Information Technology Minister Miao Wei, an engineer by education and a wily operator in diplomacy, had two important visitors in his Beijing office. One was Afghanistan’s acting Minister of Communications and Information Technology Syed Ahmad Shah Sadat. He was accompanied by Mohammad Humayoon Qayumi, Chief Advisor to the Afghanistan President on infrastructure and technology.

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Updated Date: May 05, 2017 19:55 PM

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