New Delhi: Friday, May 5 is all set to witness the launch of the Indian Space Research Organisation's (ISRO) 'South Asia Satellite' that aims to benefit all the countries in the region. Pakistan refused to join hands in this project which features seven out of eight SAARC countries.
While Prime Minister Narendra Modi called the satellite 'a priceless gift', a Chinese daily described it as an initiative "worth praising". However, it also said that China should not be excluded from New Delhi's plan to strengthen space cooperation with neighbours.
"Much attention has been focused on Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi's space diplomacy ahead of the launch of the South Asia satellite, but the stalled space cooperation plan between China and India also deserves attention," an article in the state-run Global Times said.
It also called for China-India space cooperation which was mooted during the visit of former President APJ Abdul Kalam to China in 2012.
"The effort that the Modi administration has made in providing satellite services to South Asian countries is worth praising, but China should not be excluded from New Delhi's recent moves toward strengthening space cooperation with neighbours," the daily said.
"Further opening up of the two countries' space industries is worth consideration because normal bilateral cooperation could help the two nations make breakthroughs in space technology. Additionally, Beijing and New Delhi could take advantage of multilateral platforms to boost cooperation," it said.
India will launch the South Asia satellite to enable a full range of applications and services to neighbours in the areas of telecommunication and broadcasting applications viz. Television, direct-to-home (DTH), very small aperture terminals (VSATs), tele-education, telemedicine and disaster management support.
Recalling Kalam's visit, today's article said the late President said during a trip to the State-owned China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation that the Sino- India space cooperation was in the interests of both sides.
However, apart from setting up the joint commission on space cooperation in 2015, the two countries have yet to make any other significant achievements mainly due to mutual distrust, it said.
"A lack of strategic mutual trust is one of the most intractable challenges China and India face as they promote cooperation in the space sector. The two countries' rapid development in space technology isn't conducive to strengthening cooperation, and instead has led to increased competition," it said.
"The Internet has made Sino-Indian space competition a controversial topic, with netizens in each country quick to talk up any moment when one side or the other makes a big step forward. This has resulted in a negative atmosphere in which the two countries have found it difficult to make progress on space cooperation," it said.
Besides, space and missile technology to some extent are two sides of the same coin. For instance, spacecraft control technologies can be applied to guidance systems for ballistic missiles, it said.
"Although India's overall strength in space technology still lags behind China's, the South Asian country has an advantage in some other areas," it said apparently referring to India sending a probe to Mars.
"It is understandable that New Delhi may have no enthusiasm to promote space cooperation projects, given that it hopes to keep a competitive edge in the game," it said.
(With PTI inputs)