The United States and India Monday signed a wide-ranging agreement to increase science and technology cooperation. The bilateral relationship has flourished in recent years, propelled by a critical accord on nuclear cooperation reached in July.
Efforts to conclude an umbrella science and technology agreement between the two countries had languished since the mid-1990s, snagged by disputes over intellectual property rights, or IPR.
But the accord signed Monday, for the first time establishes IPR protocols necessary to conduct active joint research. It was described by Indian Science and Technology Minister Kapil Sibal at the signing ceremony here as a great leap forward in joint cooperation.
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice signed for the United States, calling the accord another dramatic illustration of the fast-growing bilateral relationship the Bush administration has been cultivating with India:
"The United States and India will have greater opportunities and incentives to deepen and accelerate our long-standing scientific collaboration in a variety of fields, including basic sciences, space, energy, nano-technology, health and information technology," she said. "In all of these areas, the United States and the international community already have benefited greatly from the expertise of the Indian scientific community."
For his part, Mr. Sibal alluded to strains in relations during the 1990s, when the United States curbed scientific cooperation because of India's nuclear program.
But he said the two sides have been engaged in a process of discovery since the beginning of the new millennium.
"This discovery is bringing the two countries together in a manner never before seen in the history of the world," he said. "We have the oldest democracy in the world, and the largest democracy in the world coming together. And I think that the umbrella science and technology agreement that we are signing today is going to allow us to collaborate in areas that are going to serve humanity."
The Indian minister said it is time for collaboration in life-sciences to help mitigate the effects of natural disasters, like the recent South Asian earthquake and hurricanes in the southern United States, and to develop vaccines to deal with what he termed diseases of the poor that could devastate global populations.
President Bush and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh cemented what administration officials term a new global partnership in July, with an agreement allowing India to receive U.S. and other outside help for its civilian nuclear program, while allowing it to retain nuclear weapons.
One of the key figures behind the accord, Under-Secretary of State for Political Affairs Nicholas Burns, delivers a policy speech on U.S.-India relations at New York's Asia Society Tuesday, before beginning an overseas trip that will include talks in New Delhi later this week.