NEW DELHI, -- India will get a strategic toehold in the South China Sea (SCS) region as its new satellite monitoring station in Vietnam is expected to be activated soon and linked to another existing facility in neighbouring Indonesia, amid China's growing ambitions in the area.
Delhi has set up a Data Reception and Tracking and Telemetry Station at Ho Chi Minh City in southern Vietnam. The Indian Space Research Organisation will activate it soon and link it up with another station at Biak in Indonesia, official sources said.
The latest space facility will essentially help ISRO track satellites launched from India and receive data from them. India also has a satellite tracking station in Brunei. It has spent about $23 million (Rs 152 crore) to set up the facility in Ho Chi Minh City.
It will be an important strategic asset for India in the SCS region, which has been at the centre of tensions between China and particularly Vietnam and the Philippines over the past few years. Some other Southeast Asian nations besides India, the US and Japan have expressed their concerns over China’s aggressive tactic in SCS through which is the gateway for a significant portion of global trade.
India since 2014 has consistently argued in favour of freedom of navigation and over-flight in the SCS region amid China’s territorial claims and creation of artificial islands. China’s move has been protested by both Vietnam and the Philippines as its construction activities fall in their waters and exclusive economic cone.
Tensions are once again on the rise after China landed a plane on an artificial island it has built in a contested part of the SCS, prompting Vietnam to accuse Beijing of “serious infringement” of its sovereignty. The SCS is rich in natural resources. It is also a major shipping lane.
It is indeed welcome that India is securing a satellite monitoring centre in Vietnam. It will enhance India’s role in southeast Asia and help both India and the countries of the region. At the same time, the question arises, as to why, if India can monitor the seas far away from our shores via satellite, why can’t we monitor infiltration across the Indo-Pak border using sophisticated satellite imagery, at least as a supplementary input to those monitoring border security.
The ground station will help to track satellites launched from India and will also downlink data from these satellites.