India rejected Pakistan's offer to provide "technical" and "monetary" support to Prime Minister Narendra Modi's ambitious Saarc satellite project on the ground that it was a "gift" by the country to its neighbours.
During a meeting of space experts from Saarc countries to discuss the modalities of the project last week, India also did not favour suggestions that it should be brought under the ambit of Saarc, asserting that deliberations at bloc level would delay the launch of the satellite on December 8, 2016, the Saarc Day when the government intends to do so.
Modi, during last Saarc Summit in Nepal in November, had announced India's decision to develop the satellite which will benefit all Saarc countries in various fields including telecommunication and tele-medicine.
After giving "cold response" to the project, an eight- member Pakistani delegation attended the Space Technology meet on June 22 which saw the presence of experts from all Saarc member states. Among the South Asian nations, Sri Lanka and Pakistan have fairly advanced space programmes.
"There was a proposal from the Pakistani side that it was ready to offer monetary and technical support. We politely declined it as the project is a gift from India to its Saarc neighbours," said a senior government official.
It has also declined demands from Pakistan that the satellite project should be taken up at the regional level. India said since it was a "gift" to its neighbours, it did not want to make it a "Saarc project".
"This would have meant deliberations and opinions from other countries and that would have taken time. The Prime Minister has specifically said that it was India's gift to its neighbours.
"There are so many other aspects that are involved. For instance, with the project comes the cost. Not all countries would be able to pay the cost and that would have held up the project. And we intend to complete by December 8, 2016, the Saarc Day," the official said.
However, the official said India was very much "open" to consultations from other Saarc nations on their requirements from the project. Several countries have given their "wish list", but the satellite would primarily be for communication purposes, the official added.