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THE NEWS

India is setting up a satellite tracking and data reception centre in Bhutan with the objective to counter a similar facility by the Chinese in the region.

MORE ON NEWS:

  • Bhutanese Prime Minister LotayTshering is on his maiden three-day visit to India after taking over as PM of Bhutan last month.
  • India has also pledged Rs 4500 crore as its assistance to Bhutan to support its 12th five-year-plan (FYP) for development.
  • The contribution will be allocated according to the needs and priorities of Bhutan.
  • Both countries also reached an agreement on the tariff of the electricity India would import from the newly-constructed 720 MW Mangde-Chhu Hydroelectric Plant in Bhutan.

ABOUT THE PROJECT:

  • Under the project, a ground station will soon be developed in Bhutan by ISRO to reap the benefits of the South Asian Satellite.
  • ISRO’s station in Bhutan is likely to double up as “a strategic asset” for India, given its prime location between India and China.
  • Once completed, the ground station will enable the mountain kingdom to establish services like weather information, telemedicine and disaster relief in far-flung rural areas.

COUNTERING CHINA:

  • China has set up a similar advanced satellite tracking centre and astronomical observatory at Ngari, in Tibet Autonomous Region, which is about 125 km from the Line of Actual Control (LAC), the official border between India and China
  • This facility is so advanced that apart from tracking Indian satellites, it can also “blind” them.
  • The strategic step by India comes after the Doklam crisis when China tried to construct a road at a tri-junction between India, China and Bhutan, which led to a 72-day face-off between the Indian Army and the Chinese People’s Liberation Army at Doklam in 2017 (Bhutan stood firmly with India during the face-off).
  • Though India has stated that the project was intended to help the tiny state take advantage of the South Asia Satellite, it is slightly indicated that it was part of India’s countermeasures to China’s advances satellite tracking station.

CONSTRUCTING RELATIONS, NEIGHBOURHOOD FIRST POLICY:

      • Bhutan, located in the eastern Himalayas, is sandwiched between India and China. The country is landlocked and depended on India for access to the sea. Historically, Bhutan shared deep religion-cultural links with India.
      • India shares 699-kilometres of international boundary with Bhutan. The state-wise break up is:
        • Assam 267 km
        • Arunachal Pradesh 217 km
        • West Bengal 183 km
        • Sikkim 32 km
      • Besides, China’s increasingly assertive claims over Bhutanese territory from 1910 onward, its annexation of Tibet in 1950, alarmed Bhutan, prompting it to turn to India for support.
      • The country’s fear of Chinese exploitation coincided with a wary India looking to Bhutan as its buffer against China.
      • The interest culminated in India and Bhutan signing a Treaty of Perpetual Peace and Friendship in 1949, which provided India, “an advisory role” in Bhutan’s foreign relations.
      • With intensified India and Bhutan’s defence cooperation, Indian military is virtually responsible for protecting Bhutan from external and internal threats.
      • Not only in defence, but India’s role in Bhutan’s economy is also enormous too. India is Bhutan’s largest trade partner.
      • Besides, India provides a market for around three-fourths of Bhutan’s hydropower production. Also, India is Bhutan’s largest aid donor.
      • So far, India has set up 3 hydro-electric projects in Bhutan, which together produce a little over 1400 MW of power (about three-fourths of which is exported to India).
      • Now, with the new development between the two countries, Space science will emerge as the new dimension of India’s cooperation with Bhutan.
      • With its completion, Bhutan will get help in tasks such as weather information, telemedicine and disaster relief in the far-flung areas of the country.

SERVING SAARC WITH INDIA’S ADVANCES IN SPACE:

      • In 2014, India mooted the idea of having a satellite for all the members of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC), so that India could share the benefits of its advances achieved in space technologies with all its neighbours in South Asia.
      • On May 5, 2017, the ISRO launched the South Asia satellite (GSAT-9), which is a geostationary communication and meteorology satellite operated by ISRRO for the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) countries.
      • India bore the entire expense of the project. Apart from Pakistan, all other nations joined the project. Bhutan is already availing the services of the south Asian Satellite.

ISRO:

    • The Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) is an Indian space agency, headquartered in Bengaluru.
    • It was founded in 1969 to develop an independent Indian space program.
    • Operation: The organization operates through a countrywide network of centres.
    • Designing: Satellites are designed, developed, assembled, and tested at the ISRO Satellite Centre in Bangalore.
    • Development of Sensors & Payloads: Sensors and payloads are developed at the Space Applications Centre in Ahmedabad.
    • Development of Launch Vehicles: Launch vehicles are developed at the Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre in Thiruvananthapuram.
    • Launching Site: Launches take place at the Satish Dhawan Space Centre on Sriharikota Island, near Chennai.
    • Master Control Facility: The Master Control Facilities for geostationary satellite station keeping are located at Hassan, KarnatakaBhopal and Madhya Pradesh.
    • Processing: Reception and processing facilities for remote-sensing data are situated at the National Remote Sensing Centre in Hyderabad.

CONCLUSION

India and Bhutan have always shared friendly relations with each other and in the wake of increasing China’s reach in the region, both nations have come closer. Though India has always stood by Bhutan and it will always continue to play the role of the most trusted friend and partner for the tiny Himalayan kingdom, especially in the field of development. Since Bhutan lies at a strategic location between India and China, the move will be a strategic one for India as well as for Bhutan. At the moment, Bhutan is trying to explore the possibilities of space utilization and hopes to develop its space capabilities, which will now be achieved with India’s help.

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