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With eye on the Indo-Pacific and China, India successfully launches state-of-the art communication satellite

India launches communication satellite

India on Thursday successfully launched a state-of-the art satellite, with an eye on providing advanced communication to its strategic island territories, which are part of New Delhi’s renewed focus on the Indo-Pacific and China. Indian Space Research Organisation's (ISRO) workhorse rocket PSLV-C50 successfully placed into orbit India's latest communication satellite CMS-01 on Thursday, the space agency said.

The communication satellite will provide dedicated coverage to the geopolitically sensitive Andaman and Nicobar Islands on the eastern seaboard and the Lakshadweep island chain in the Arabian Sea on the west. India is strongly leveraging both island chains in order to reinforce New Delhi’s presence in the Indo-Pacific, especially after China adopted a more muscular approach in the South China Sea and the Indian Ocean.

India along with Japan, Australia and the United States have formed a budding phalanx in the Indo-Pacific to deter Chinese assertive behaviour on either side of the Malacca straits — the channel that links the Andaman Sea with the politically turbulent South China Sea.

The latest initiative follows New Delhi’s decision to fast-track construction of a world class trans-shipment hub in the Great Nicobar Island in the Andaman sea. Once it comes online, the new Indian Ocean port at South Bay on the eastern wing of the Great Nicobar island, will string with other mega-sized deep water transhipment ports – Dubai, Colombo, Klang in Malaysia, and Singapore – along the great east-west shipping route.

These big “mother ports,” in the west and the east of India, allow ultra-large container ships with drafts of 15 meters or above to dock. Feeder vessels, with smaller drafts, then load cargo from the big ships, and ferry them to ports which are unable to accommodate king-sized floats.

The South Bay port’s strategic importance is obvious. It is close to the six-degree channel, an incredibly important global shipping lane, which feeds into the Malacca straits—a major choke point that links the Indian and Pacific oceans. The Malacca straits is the heartbeat of trade with the Indo-Pacific, the fastest growing region in the world on either side of the channel. In August Prime Minister Narendra Modi also inaugurated a 2,312 kilometre submarine fibre optic link between Chennai, a bustling metropolis on the Indian east coast, with the Andaman and Nicobar — a centrally administered archipelago of 572 islands that separate the waters of the Bay of Bengal from the Andaman sea in the eastern Indian Ocean.

The launch vehicle of the satellite, PSLV-C50, was making its 22nd flight in ‘XL’ configuration. This was the 77th launch vehicle mission from Sriharikota, about 120 km from Chennai.