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Celebrating 10 Years of the Indo-US Science & Technology Forum

bridges vol. 28, December 2010 / Norm Neureiter on S&T in Foreign Policy

By Norman P. Neureiter          

Norman P. Neureiter

Earlier this month I was in Delhi, India, to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the Indo-US S&T Forum (IUSSTF) and to participate in the annual meeting of the joint Governing Body (GB) of that organization, of which I am the US cochair.  The broad mission of the bilateral IUSSTF is to promote S&T cooperation between the US and India.  This Forum has a unique structure for a cooperative instrument supported by two governments, since it was not possible at the time of President Clinton's visit in 2000 to sign a formal science cooperation agreement.  India was under US sanctions because of their test of a nuclear weapon in 1998, and also the Indians were unwilling (understandably) to accept the rather one-sided intellectual-property provision which the US required at the time in all formal S&T agreements.  However, the creative ingenuity of then-US Ambassador to India Richard Celeste led to establishing the Forum as an Indian private society (an NGO), officially chartered under the Indian Societies Registration Act of 1860.    

The US government contributed $7 million in Indian rupees to an endowment deposited in an Indian bank, and the Indian Government agreed to match the annual interest earned on the endowment.  The result was that the IUSSTF was assured of having an amount in rupees equivalent to $1.2 million to $1.4 million each year as core funding to support its activities.  At the beginning, implementation was relatively slow, as the two governments moved to create the new, nongovernmental institution.  US and Indian cochairs plus six other GB members from each country were appointed.  A portion of the Fulbright House in Delhi was remodeled to house the IUSSTF  Secretariat, and a lengthy competitive process led to the hiring of Dr. Arabinda Mitra - a scientist in the Indian government - as the first executive director (amitra[at]indousstf.org).  Additional staff were hired and procedures for requesting, evaluating, and funding proposals were established along with careful financial management that would assure approval after rigorous fiscal auditing.  After serving for nearly seven years, Dr. Mitra will soon leave the IUSSTF to take an important position in the Indian Department of Science and Technology; a search for a new executive director in India is now underway.  

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