Mar 21, Colombo: India is reportedly worried about Sri Lanka's collaboration with China in its space program as a private firm of Sri Lanka is partnering with a state-owned Chinese company to launch Sri Lanka's communication satellites.
According to a report in the Indian English daily The Hindu, Indian authorities are so concerned over the China-Sri Lanka space partnership that the National Security Council Secretariat has called an inter-ministerial consultation next week to decide how to protect "Indian interests" in its neighborhood.
In mid-2012 India's National Security Adviser (NSA) had discussed the issue of Sri Lanka's space programme and asked the Indian Department of Space to provide an assessment of the security implications on India due to Sri Lanka's space programme, The Hindu reported.
The inter-ministerial meeting scheduled for March 25 under the leadership of India's Deputy National Security Adviser would discuss the issue of a possible security threat from Sri Lanka's space program to India.
Citing the government sources, the report said India would initiate discussions with Sri Lankan authorities on bilateral cooperation in space-related activities, including building, launching and operating satellites.
Supreme SAT (Pvt.) Ltd., a Sri Lankan company operating under the Board of Investment (BOI) of Sri Lanka partnered with a diversified state-owned Chinese conglomerate China Great Wall Industry Corporation to launch three satellites.
The first of the three, Sri Lanka's first communication satellite, SupremeSAT - I was delivered into orbit from the Xichang Space Centre in the Sichuan Province of China, on the 27th of November 2012.
The other two launches are scheduled for June 2013, and December 2015.
The total investment for the space program is estimated at US$ 360 million which also included the construction of a satellite Content Management Station and a Space Academy in Kandy which is now in progress.
The worried Indian authorities have been looking into possible options to counter any security threat. In its suggestions, the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) had said India should offer to build and launch satellites for Colombo.
However, if Sri Lanka refused to cooperate with India on the issue, India would request Sri Lanka to regulate footprints of satellite coverage within its land and maritime boundary to minimize Chinese interference, if any, the government sources have said.
India is also considering a mutually beneficial cooperation arrangement for building satellites and operating them with increased coverage areas over India so that capabilities on satellites can be used by both the countries.
According to Indian government sources, India was likely to raise objections at an international level when the issues of orbital slot, frequency coordination and downlinking of foreign channels would come up to safeguard its national security and commercial interests.