US, India plan research ties for agriculture

New Delhi, February 27:

Several initiatives in agriculture collaboration are set to be announced during president George W Bush’s visit beginning tomorrow, with India and the US identifying four major areas.

India’s tie-up with US institutions in agriculture dates back to the 60s when noted scientist Norman Borlaug played a key role in helping the country usher in a green revolution, paving way for self-sufficiency in food production. “The new initiatives for collaboration between institutions and universities are expected to be more intensive in nature, focusing on four major areas,” Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) director general Mangala Rai said.

While declining to give details, Rai said the four areas being worked out were human resources development, biotechnology, process and product development for commercialisation, and water technologies. The agreements being worked out are on the lines outlined in the India-US joint statement of July 2005 when prime minister Manmohan Singh visited the US. This was followed by an agreement signed by the Indian agriculture ministry and the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) in November for a knowledge initiative on agricultural education, teaching, research, service and commercial Linkages, official sources said. “The new initiatives focusing on frontier areas are expected to provide the momentum needed to re-energise India’s agriculture universities and other research organisations and help the country achieve the objective of doubling agriculture production over the next decade.”

As many as 23 US universities have indicated interest in tying up with several among the 39 agriculture universities and leading institutions in India, more so in developing new varieties of salinity and drought resistant food grains and virus resistance vegetables and fruits like kasava and papaya.

President Bush will be visiting the Acharya N G Ranga Agricultural University at Hyderabad on Friday. India is also keen to work with US researchers in the development of nutrient efficient varieties of grains.

Also being worked out will be a public-private partnership, where the private sector can help identify research areas that have the potential for rapid commercialisation. This is with a view to develop new and commercially viable technologies for agricultural advancement in both countries. Efforts are on to work out sustainable financial support for these initiatives, taking into consideration both public and private sectors sources of funding.

IT sector plans trade pact

MUMBAI: India’s dollar-spinning IT industry is looking forward to some positive initiatives towards inking a free trade agreement with the US in the services sector during president Bush’s visit to the country. With just a couple of days to go for the arrival of Bush in India, hopes are soaring that the US administration would also raise the visa limit for the entry of Indian tech professionals in the world’s largest economy. The US is the biggest market for India’s software services and business process outsourcing firms, accounting for nearly 70 per cent of total exports that are likely to touch a staggering $24 billion in the year. — HNS