Obama Visit Boosts India-U.S. Science Ties

NEW DELHI—President Barack Obama's unprecedented 3-day visit to India, which ended today, yielded a bumper crop of diplomatic agreements on topics including disease surveillance, agricultural research, clean energy, and monsoon forecasting. In addition, NASA and the Indian space agency began talks on joint human space flight. And the United States agreed to relax certain export controls affecting Indian defense and space facilities.

At a special session of the Indian Parliament yesterday, Obama spoke of U.S.-India ties as an "indispensable and defining relationship of the 21st century." He acknowledged India's contributions to science and backed India's demand for a permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council.

"This is a manifestation of the growing trust and confidence" between the two countries, said Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who added that he was gratified that the United States will support India's membership in export-control regimes such as the Nuclear Suppliers Group, a cartel created in 1974 to restrict global trade in nuclear technology after India conducted a nuclear explosion.

To foster cooperation in public health, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will team up with the Indian ministry of health in a regional disease detection center in New Delhi. It will carry out surveillance on emerging diseases and help in early detection of tropical disease outbreaks. No budget has yet been announced for this 5-year effort. In agriculture, Obama announced that India and the United States will jointly support R&D to usher in an "evergreen revolution," a model for sustaining food security for the world.

India will host the Global Center for Nuclear Energy Partnership involving the United States. Among other things, according to a joint statement, the center will "strengthen global nuclear security and address threats of nuclear terrorism." A bilateral "Joint Clean Energy Research and Development Center" with $5 million a year each from the United States and India for the next 5 years will develop new ways to harvest solar energy and tap shale gas, among other goals.

To understand the monsoon better, the United States will provide about $600,000 for a 5-year computer modeling effort that will also help set up a "monsoon desk" at the National Centers for Environmental Prediction in Camp Springs, Maryland, said Jane Lubchenco, administrator of the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The two countries aim to work together in predicting the 2011 monsoon season.

*This item has been corrected, 11 November. It originally read that a bilateral "Joint Clean Energy Research and Development Center" would receive $1 million a year each from the United States and India for the next 5 years. That figure is $5 million.

Posted in Asia, Policy