Prime minister Narendra Modi’s call to the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) to develop a satellite that will provide navigation facilities to all the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation countries is a measure of his economic diplomacy. Such a satellite will help those countries in manifold ways and make the whole region one contiguous land mass. Technologically at least, the borders will disappear and they all can get the benefits of the satellite in a seamless manner. Modi’s love for technology was manifest in his decision to be at the Satish Dhawan Space Centre at Sriharikota on Monday morning to witness the launch of five satellites using the Polar Satellite Launching Vehicle.
The launch was significant in many ways. That it was a textbook launch was a measure of ISRO’s expertise. The satellites, placed in their respective orbits at the specified time, belonged to France, Germany, Singapore and Canada—among the most developed nations. It is no mean achievement that they trusted India’s capability to launch their satellites. True, it is not the first time the ISRO has received such prestigious orders. As the world’s low-cost space technology supplier, India can rightly expect to get a good share of the $300 billion global satellite launching business. By sharing technology with SAARC nations, Modi wants India to play a larger role in the region.
India has come a long way since 1975 when it launched its first satellite, Aryabhatta, using a Soviet rocket and availed of the free use of an American satellite to launch what was called the Satellite Instructional Television Experiment. Since then, India has completed over 100 missions, including those to Moon and Mars. Today, it belongs to an elite group of five nations with a proven track record in space missions. India has an advantage over the other four—it has developed the technology at a fraction of the cost they have incurred. India can therefore easily become the international hub of satellite launching.