India is all set to activate its satellite tracking station in Vietnam – a project, which already raised hackles in China.

A meeting between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Vietnamese counterpart Nguyen Xuan Phuc in New Delhi was followed by exchange of two pacts, including one on Indian Space Research Organization's Data Reception and Tracking and Telemetry Station at Ho Chi Minh City.

The implementation arrangement inked by the Indian Space Research Organization and the National Remote Sensing Department of Vietnam would "define the framework and conditions of cooperation" for establishment of the tracking and data reception station as well as the data processing facility in Ho Chi Minh City, sources told the DH.

The ISRO moved to set up the state-of-the-art satellite tracking station in Vietnam two years back as a part of the programme for space cooperation between India and the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN).

Once activated and linked up with another existing station of the ISRO at Biak in Indonesia, the new facility in Ho Chi Minh City will help New Delhi track satellites launched from India and receive data from them. It will also help the ISRO share with the remote sensing agencies of Vietnam and other ASEAN nations the satellite data for

management of natural resources, study of ocean and response to disaster in South-East Asia.

Besides, according to the sources in New Delhi, it will also be an important strategic asset for India to keep watch on South China Sea, which has been at the centre of China's territorial dispute with Vietnam as well as its other maritime neighbours – Brunei, Malaysia, Philippines and Taiwan.

Beijing already cried foul over the new facility as it would give India a strategic edge in a region often perceived to be a backyard of China.

China's state-run newspaper, Global Times, in January 2016 had published a report quoting a researcher in a social science institution of the communist country stating that New Delhi's move to set up the satellite tracking station at Ho Chi Minh City "clearly" indicated its "attempt to complicate the regional dispute" over South China Sea.

Beijing's objection had made Hanoi a bit hesitant and it had been dilly-dallying on completing the necessary procedural formalities with New Delhi to pave the way for the ISRO to activate the tracking station.

India, however, continued discussion with Vietnam over the past two years and finally the latter agreed to ink the implementation arrangement clearing the hurdles for its activation.

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