The New Delhi government has taken the route of space diplomacy. This is a tool that the foreign ministry has been sharpening. This is a part of its neighbourhood-first policy. This is a path to counter China’s influence in the region. India will set up 5 large ground stations and more than 500 small terminals in five neighbouring countries. These countries include Bhutan, Nepal, Maldives, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka.
This move will surely boost regional cooperation. Apart from that, it will set up tracking and receiving centres. They will help put in place strategic Indian assets on their soil. These stations and terminals will help put in place applications ranging from television broadcasting to telephony and internet, disaster management and telemedicine. ISRO can use these ground stations to communicate with its own satellites.
The first of the five ground stations will be coming up in Bhutan’s capital, Thimphu. It will be ready for commissioning on January 9th. It may be inaugurated as early as January 15th. Sources said, “We have an Indian firm, Alpha Design Technologies, implementing the project, which will also see 100 VSATs (Very Small Aperture Terminals) connected to the ground station, taking for the first time TV broadcasting to many remote areas in Bhutan.” The station in Thimphu is being seen as India’s counter to satellite tracking infrastructure created by China in Tibet. A similar project in Afghanistan is said to come up later.
The space diplomacy infrastructure is being created as an extension of the South Asia Satellite launched on May 5, 2017.
ISRO chairman Sivan K said about the space diplomacy initiative, “The MEA and ISRO are very serious about this mission, and ISRO is committed to provide all support. We will even send out our people to help out countries utilise our satellite service. We hosted representatives from all these countries on December 12 in New Delhi to chart our future plans.”