India insists on operational control of Galileo

Monday, 28 June 2004, 07:00 Hrs
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NEW DELHI: India's participation in European Union's (EU) multi-billion euro Galileo Satellite Navigation Project is still under negotiation, with New Delhi insisting on a say in its operational control.

India, which has expertise in cost-effective space technologies and has pledged 300 million euros for the project, has maintained that its participation in the project would depend on whether it has operational control or not.

Experts from the two sides have held two rounds of negotiations in the past few months but differences remain.

"If we are putting in 300 million euros we must have a say in the control of the satellite," a senior official asserted.

During the last India-US Business Summit held here in November, coinciding with the India-EU annual summit, then prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee had made it clear that India would participate in the project as an "equal partner" and not as a "mere customer".

India's expertise in cost-effective space technologies could bring both technical value and price competitiveness to the project, Vajpayee said.

The Galileo system, named after the famous Italian physicist and astronomer and in which China is also involved, has been conceived as an alternative to the Global Positioning System (GPS) of the US.

The GPS is a worldwide radio navigation system supported by a constellation of 24 satellites and their ground stations.

It uses the "manmade stars" as reference points to calculate terrestrial positions accurate to a matter of metres.

New Delhi had announced its decision to support the EU project in the wake of the US war against Iraq in which the GPS was used extensively to bombard that country.

The GSP was developed mainly for military use and is under the exclusive control of the US.

Although initiators and backers of the Galileo project stress it is only for civilian use, they do not deny its military application.

"They (EU) have assured us that they will not shut down operation of signals from the satellite because it is meant for civilian commercial purposes.

"Their saying is one thing but when it comes to a question of their interests getting affected, like situations of war, it will be altogether a different story," the official said.

"That's why we want to get into the operational control of Galileo."

Apart from the strategic objectives, India sees in the Galileo project an opportunity to showcase its prowess in space technology.

It has already planned linking Galileo to its own proposed Gagan project, a low earth orbiting satellite that will help boost signals from Galileo.

Officials said details of China's participation in the Galileo project was not known.

"We have a different approach. We want everything in black and white. The Chinese will first join the project and then start asserting themselves, like the proverbial camel-in-the-tent story," the official said.

Source: IANS
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