The European Union's top official for science and research has called for closer scientific and technology cooperation between the 27-member European bloc and India.
"We want to re-start the engines and to switch into another gear of our mutual
cooperation (with India)," EU Commissioner for Science and Research Janez Potocnik told INEP news agency in an exclusive interview.
India's plans to double financing for basic science is a "perfect opportunity that will encourage our relationship in science and technology cooperation", said Potocnik on the eve of his visit to India to participate in the EU-India Science Ministerial Meeting on Wednesday in New Delhi.
"We could work more together. The priorities which we have nowadays are quite similar. Both the EU and India are somehow trying to channelise their direction towards the knowledge society."
Potocnik noted that it was the first time that science ministers and high officials from nearly all 27 EU member states are meeting outside the European Union.
"It will be a major event," said Potocnik, a former Minister for European Affairs in his home country Slovenia. This will be his first visit to India.
The EU-India Science and Technology Cooperation Agreement signed in November 2001 will expire this year and the two sides are working on the renewal of the agreement.
The opening of a Science and Technology section in the European Commission Delegation in New Delhi just over a year ago "is a right step in the right direction", he stated.
Potocnik said the EU and India are cooperating in the fusion reactor ITER, are partners in global research, in European satellite navigation project GALILEO and in the Sixth EU Framework Programme. There were 80 cooperative projects already involving Indian scientists in the Sixth Framework Programme, he noted.
The EU will be increasing funding globally for the Seventh EU framework programme which runs until 2013 "and changing the logic to international cooperation there", he said.
Last October, the EU launched China-EU science and technology year.
Potocnik said the EU planned something similar with India. "Definitely it is one of the possibilities. We have to think on all the possible ways on how to strengthen cooperation."
"The future of EU-India scientific cooperation will build on what we have achieved in the past. It will be built on goodwill, which is increasing from day to day. Future cooperation would be enormously fruitful for both sides," he stressed.
The EU commissioner will meet Indian President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, hold a breakfast meeting with Indian CEOs and also visit the Institute for Plasma Research in Ahmedabad during his three-day stay in India.
According to some observers, the absence of the post of an officer for science and technology in the Indian Embassy in Brussels was hampering the development of scientific and technology cooperation between the two sides.