Pakistan Opts Out of SAARC Satellite Project

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Pakistan has decided to opt out of the SAARC satellite project announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2014 and now it will be a South Asia satellite, the governments said today. 

The government has sought in-principle consent from all SAARC nations to pursue the project and it has heard from all but Pakistan. The satellite is scheduled to be launched as per schedule in December this year.

“Pakistan has decided to opt out of the satellite project. So it cannot be called a SAARC satellite. It will be a South Asia satellite,” said External Affairs Ministry Spokesperson Vikas Swarup.

A month after taking over in May 2014, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had announced that the country will develop a SAARC satellite, which will be a “gift from India”. India will be spending Rs 235 crore on the satellite, which will have 12 transponders and is slated to be launched on the SAARC Day on December 8.

India had convened a meeting of all South Asian countries in June last year to discuss the SAARC satellite and to solve any questions about the project. The workshop brought to the fore the various doubts of the Asian countries, even as there was an agreement that India should go ahead with registration of satellite with the International Telecommunication (ITU).

Officials said that while all countries have now indicated their concurrence in principle, Pakistan remains the only outlier. Similarly, a senior ISRO (Indian Space Research Organisation)official said it has heard from all countries, except for Pakistan.

“We have asked all the SAARC countries to provide us with information about use of spatial technology in sectors they are looking at. To take it forward, we also wanted a letter of consent from respective governments. We have more or less heard from all other SAARC countries but Pakistan,” said a top space scientist.

Similarly, a SAARC Motor Vehicle Agreement, providing connectivity in the region, could not be signed because of reservations expressed by Pakistan. Bangladesh, Bhutan, India and Nepal (BBIN) have entered into an agreement sans Pakistan last year to facilitate transportation of people and goods among the four SAARC member nations.

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