As Nepal finally goes ahead with long-overdue plans to examine the feasibility of launching its first satellite before 2015, the country may turn to China, which has in recent years helped a number of developing countries, including some of India’s neighbours, with financial and technological assistance for their satellite programmes.
Officials in Kathmandu told China’s official Xinhua news agency on Sunday that Nepal was open to the idea of leasing its first satellite “to either China or India or both” for commercial purposes.
They were quoted as saying Nepal had recently formed a committee “to study the feasibility of launching its first satellite.” An orbital slot provided by the International Telecommunication Union to Nepal many years ago will expire in 2015, prompting Kathmandu to embark on the long-discussed project with new-found urgency.
Nepali government officials told Xinhua they would look at launching the satellite through a “joint venture of national and international firms along with the Government of Nepal.”
China’s Great Wall Industry Corporation (GWIC), which has helped launch satellites for a number of developing countries, from Pakistan and Sri Lanka to Bolivia and Nigeria, is expected to make a pitch for cooperating with Nepal on the project, having voiced its interest in principle in the past to Nepali diplomats.
GWIC is also in talks with Bangladesh over its satellite programme.
China’s dual offers of technological assistance and financial support through favourable loans from the China Development Bank have found favour with many developing countries.
China’s recent success in launching satellites, particularly for countries in India’s neighbourhood, has concerned New Delhi, with officials from different government ministries meeting last month to come up with a strategy to respond to China’s moves.
As The Hindu reported, the Cabinet Committee on Security in March asked the Indian Space Research Organisation to become more active in responding to neighbours’ needs after reports from the Research & Analysis Wing highlighted how India’s lack of interest in the recent past had enabled China’s fast-expanding success in this field.
Nepali government officials told Xinhua on Sunday, “If Nepal is unable to entirely use the satellite for its internal consumption, it can be leased to either China or India or both for commercial purposes.”