Jolt to SAARC satellite project as Pakistan opts out

RSTV Bureau
File photo of Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. Photo-AP/PTI

File photo of Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.

Pakistan has decided to opt out of the ambitious SAARC satellite project which was proposed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi for all member countries of the regional organisation about a year and a half ago.

Modi, during the last SAARC Summit in Nepal in November 2014, had announced India’s decision to develop the satellite to benefit all member countries in various fields including telecommunication and tele-medicine.

“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,” External Affairs Ministry Spokesperson Vikas Swarup said.

In June 2014, Modi had asked ISRO to develop the satellite which can be dedicated as a “gift” to the neighbouring countries.

India had held deliberations with experts from other SAARC countries to finalise modalities for the satellite exclusively for SAARC nations.

When asked about last week’s SAARC Foreign Ministers’ meeting in Nepal’s Pokhra, Swarup said India “pursued connectivity issues which it has been pushing strongly.

“Two agreements were close to finalisation which could not be finalised in the last summit,” he said, terming the discussions as very positive.

“Discussions were very positive. There was a lot of sentiments that South Asia is among the least connected regions of the world and that needs to be changed,” said Swarup.

He added that the outcome of the next summit should be positive going by the “tone and tenor” of discussions in Pokhra. The meet is Pokhara was attended by External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj.

Pakistan is scheduled to host the next SAARC summit from Nov 9-10.

(With inputs from PTI)