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India bid for slice of Galileo

New Delhi, Nov. 29: In a move that could have significant impact on the country’s security and domestic life, India today formally made its pitch to become a stockholder in the billion-dollar Galileo Global Satellite System.

The Galileo is likely to be the only competition to the Global Position System that the Americans already have and the Global Navigation Sputnik System of Glasnos that the Russians are planning to build. But unlike the other two, Galileo would be operated commercially under civilian, not military, supervision.

Once ready, Galileo would be able to provide guidance for firefighters, ambulance workers and allow rapid intervention for police forces and rescue workers. It could also make air traffic safer and more efficient and help improve the transport system. The system could provide better environment protection by helping to identify polluters and monitoring the atmosphere and the movement of wild animals.

China has already committed $200 million to the project. This afternoon, it was Delhi’s turn to make its pitch to become a stockholder. Indications are that the EU was more than happy to have India join. “We expressed our willingness to open negotiations between India and the EU to formalise India’s equitable participation in the Galileo programme, starting with participation in the Galileo joint undertaking,” a joint statement said.

Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee simply said India expressed its desire to play a significant role in the Galileo programme. But European Commission president Romano Prodi termed it an important political development. India and China cooperating with the EU on the project could bring all the three sides closer, he said.

Although Vajpayee refused to say how much India would invest in the Galileo, indications are that Delhi was willing to put in as much as $300 million.

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