Indian satellite tracking station to assist Vietnam
India may soon have a satellite tracking station in Vietnam that will not only offer satellite tracking facilities to India but also enable India and Vietnam to observe Chinese activities. Although it will be a civilian facility, it may irk China which is already mired in territorial disputes with its neighbors in the South China Sea. The project may cost India $23 million.
What are satellite tracking and imaging stations?
Satellite tracking centers are ground based monitoring stations setup by space research organizations like ISRO and NASA, that help tracking satellite positions and data after launch. India already has few ground based tracking stations in Brunei, Biak (Indonesia) and Mauritius but they don't receive images from satellites. However, the one being setup in Vietnam will have imaging technology for agriculture, scientific and environmental applications.
Blurring civilian-military lines
Security analysts believe that, with improvement in technology, civilian imaging technologies can be used for military purposes as well
Growing closeness between India and Vietnam
The South China Sea (SCS), rich in oil, fisheries and an important sea route, has seen increasing territorial expansion by China in the form of construction of artificial islands. Vietnam considers China's moves as an "infringement of sovereignty". ISRO's Data Reception, Tracking and Telemetry station at Ho Chi Minh City, will boost Vietnam's monitoring capabilities as it may have access to real-time imagery.
China offended by India's move
China however, sees India's move as an interference from outside power in the South China Sea (SCS) region. A Chinese think tank had said that India is unnecessarily creating trouble and complicating regional disputes. China also criticized India's moves as "toeing the US, Japan line". However, India had always advocated freedom of navigation and peaceful settlement of disputes in South China Sea region.
Strategic advantage to India
ISRO's satellite tracking station will be first such foreign facility in Vietnam. Although Vietnam had launched its earth observatory in 2013, it does not have high resolution imaging capability. ISRO's observation satellite, covering SCS, will offer better capabilities to Vietnam and also provide India with a strategic asset in the region. Vietnam has in return offered oil exploration blocks in Vietnamese waters to India.