India to build satellite tracking station in Vietnam, with access to images of China region
New Delhi : A satellite tracking system with India, which could provide a vigil on China’s activities, especially in the China mainland and South China Sea territory, would soon be more than just a wishful thinking, as India is all set to build a tracking station in Vietnam, which would offer India the opportunity to access China images, and the Hanoi access would throw open images of China’s land and sea territory. This system, which India would set up, in the form of satellite tracking and imaging centre in southern Vietnam, would will give Hanoi access to pictures from Indian earth observation satellites that cover the region, including China and the South China Sea, according to information shared by Indian officials to Reuters.
The move is a step towards deepening ties between India and Vietnam, who both have long-running territorial disputes with China, however at the cost of possibly irking Beijing at some sensitive zones of surveillance. Named as a civilian facility – these earth observation satellites have agricultural, scientific and environmental applications – and security experts believe that improved imaging technology indicated that the pictures could also be used for military purposes.
The authorities claimed that Hanoi especially had been looking for advanced intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance technologies as tensions rise with China over the disputed South China Sea. A Marine Security expert at Singapore’s S. S. Rajathram School of International Studies told Reuters — In military terms, this move could be quite significant..it looks like a win-win for both sides, filling significant holes for the Vietnamese and expanding the range for the Indians.
The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) would fund and set up the satellite tracking and data reception centre in Ho Chi Minh City to monitor Indian satellite launches. Ever since India’s 54-year long space program has gained momentum, with one satellite launch scheduled every month, the establishment has ground stations in the Andaman and Nicobar islands, Brunei, Biak in eastern Indonesia and Mauritius that track its satellites in the initial stages of flight.
The newly added Vietnam facility would add more strength to the existing satellite image built-up and would bolster those capabilities. However, unlike the other overseas stations, this facility would also be equipped to receive images from India’s earth observation satellites that Vietnam could use in return for granting India the tracking site, said an Indian government official connected with the space program. On condition of anonymity, the official told Reuters — This is a sort of quid pro quo which will enable Vietnam to receive IRS (Indian remote sensing) pictures directly, that is, without asking India. Obviously it will include parts of China of interest to Vietnam.
Vietnam’s Foreign Ministry confirmed the project, while China’s Defence Ministry stated that the proposed tracking station wasn’t a military issue. The Chinese Foreign Ministry had no immediate comment.