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Delhi gets a slice of eye in sky

New Delhi, Sept. 7: It will track tigers in the forests and militants in the mountains. It will guide rescuers to flood victims and ambulances to accident sites. It will make landing planes and driving cars safer and bring down air fares.

India today signed a framework agreement with the European Union, making it part of a $1-billion project touted as the “Internet of global navigation”.

The Galileo Satellite Navigation Programme can change the way Indians live with its wide-ranging applications, stretching from defence and security to commerce and agriculture.

The level of India’s participation ' particularly the money it will invest in the project ' will be decided after talks to be held in the coming months. Delhi’s investment could be around $300 million. China, also part of the project, has already committed $200 million.

India had been keen to get on board for a long time, but made its pitch to become a stakeholder only two years ago.

But the agreement could not be signed last year because Delhi was unwilling to get into a formal dialogue with the European Union on arms control. The issue was resolved after the two sides agreed to have a security dialogue but not one specifically on arms control.

Experts feel the Galileo project may be useful in mobile telephony and surveillance and can help the military in many ways, especially in keeping tabs on infiltration across the border.

Galileo is likely to be the only competition to the Global Positioning System the Americans already have and the Global Navigation Sputnik System, which the Russians plan to build. But unlike the other two, Galileo will be operated commercially under the supervision of civilian authorities and not the military.

Once completed, Galileo will guide firefighters and ambulance workers and allow quick intervention by police and rescuers. It will help protect the environment by identifying polluters and monitoring the atmosphere and will even track the movement of wild animals.

The fully deployed Galileo system will have 30 satellites and will be linked with the American and Russian systems to help the user pinpoint a position with the same receiver from any of the satellites in any combination.

Galileo promises accurate positioning within a metre in real time, unprecedented for a publicly available system. This will make it particularly useful where safety is crucial, such as in running trains, guiding cars and landing aircraft. More efficient air traffic control will lower operational costs, bringing down fares.

“We welcome the progress in the ongoing discussions on the EU-India draft cooperation agreement on the Galileo Satellite Navigation Project,” a statement issued earlier by the two sides said.

“It will ensure India’s equitable participation in Galileo space, ground and user segments and will guarantee the availability of highest quality signals over the Indian territory.”

It stressed that the agreement will provide a “positive impulse for Indian and European industrial cooperation in many high-tech areas”.

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