Just a month into office, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had travelled to the ISRO (Indian Space Research Organisation) facility to witness the launch of the PSLV-C23 satellite. In his speech after the successful launch, Modi praised the ISRO scientists for their stellar work and then stunned them into momentary silence by posing a challenge. “Today, I ask our Space community, to take up the challenge, of developing a SAARC Satellite - that we can dedicate to our neighbourhood, as a gift from India. A satellite, that provides a full range of applications and services, to all our neighbours. I also ask you, to enlarge the footprint of our satellite-based navigation system, to cover all of South Asia.”
Initially, the assembled scientists did not know what to say. “We had never done such a thing,” remembers an old ISRO hand. Modi reinforced this idea five months later, speaking in Kathmandu at the SAARC Summit on November 26. He said, "India's gift of a satellite for the SAARC region will benefit us all in areas like education, telemedicine, disaster response, resource management, weather forecasting and communication.”
In less than three years after the Prime Minister challenged the ISRO scientists, they came up with the answer. On 5 May 2017, the SAARC Satellite’ was launched from Sriharikota, opening a new chapter in space diplomacy.
So while high resolution imaging satellite can help in urban planning it can also monitor terrorist camps across the border. Kasturirangan says a satellite image does not distinguish between friend and foe that interpretation rests with the users. Kiran Kumar says, "The Indian space agency will not be found lacking in helping secure India's national interests now and in future."
Speaking about the capabilities of this ultra-sharp satellite, Kumar said "The Cartosat 2 series has a unique capability of capturing a 1-minute video, which despite its enormous speed of 37 km a second, is able to focus at a single point for a minute."
Former ISRO chairman G Madhavan Nair says even China does not have such high resolution satellites, the best China has is about 5-m resolution.
In fact Nair insists that in the upcoming GSAT 6-A, satellite telephony should be made the bigger component.
As a senior security manager summed it up: “Now ISRO has got strategically aligned to India’s security requirements, thanks to the Eye-in-the-Sky. Earlier, it was largely technologically focused.”