Transcript of Press conference by Minister of State for Science & Technology, Bio Technology and Ocean Development Kapil Sibal at the Indian Embassy
October 17, 2005
Minister Kapil Sibal: Thank you very much. First of all good to be back, good to be meeting with you all once again. This is indeed a very important moment for us. In a sense it is quite historic that after fifteen long years of negotiations, we have signed this agreement - this umbrella agreement on science and technology. In fact, I would have liked when the Prime Minister was here on his last visit, for this agreement to have be signed at that point in time. I was hoping that would be done, but for reasons unknown to me that didn’t happen and then I was approached by the Embassy in New Delhi that since this agreement had been finalized, it ought to be signed as soon as possible and that if I could come to the United States and if it was possible. I was to go to UNESCO for a conference at this time, and I said well since I’m going to Paris already, I wouldn’t mind coming here. Because I wanted that before President Bush went to India in January/ February, apart from signing this agreement, we have something substantive in place to show as to how the two countries are moving forward and how the scientific community is collaborating so that when President Bush comes, something substantive is announced which would signify the close relationship between the scientific communities of the two countries and how they wish to take this relationship forward in areas which impact on the lives of people around the world.
This agreement has in its Annexe an agreement on IPR issues, and basically this agreement in essence stipulates that this reflects the shared responsibilities that will be undertaken by the parties and the equitable contributions and benefits which will emerge from this agreement, dependant on the respective science and technology expertise available at both ends, and the resources. So what is important here is shared responsibilities, equitable contributions and benefits dependant on resources at the hands of both parties. That in essence is the heart of this agreement. We already have a high technology dialogue going on with the United States, on defense, on space, on biotechnology, on nano-technology, but I have to say as far as bio tech and nano tech are concerned, the movement forward has not been as progressive as it should have been and I wish to take this forward in a very big way, because if the world is going to be transformed in the new millennium, the reasons for that will be our contributions, the scientific community’s contributions to the field of nano tech and bio tech. You will notice that Secretary of State, Ms. Condoleezza Rice also talked about nano technology and bio technology and I believe that that relationship and shared responsibilities in those areas will be particularly important from both countries point of view.
Also, I think that it is important to collaborate in areas of life sciences, particularly when you talk about diseases of the poor. It is important to collaborate in areas of natural calamities/ disasters, and I think the world community is already moving in that direction. I think energy is a big issue that confronts the world today and closely related to energy is the issue of the environment. I think that if the two great democracies in the world, the oldest and the largest, collaborate with each other, on these specific issues, apart from high technology issues, we will hopefully have some solutions on issues that impact on the lives of common people. I do believe that this historic agreement will take the relationship of India and the United States to a new level, and that in India, we will be paying more emphasis on investments in R&D in the areas of science and technology because we need those investments to generate the kind of growth that we are talking about which is 8% of GDP. I am proud of my scientific community, that despite the meager resources in R&D in our country, they have done us proud. But I think that the time has come when the country must invest more in R&D. This collaboration is yet another example of how serious India is on the issue of investments in R&D – more and more investments in R&D. And the recent signals I have from interaction with my colleagues in the Planning Commission, is that this recognition in the eleventh plan is going to be reflected in numbers, so I hope that this agreement serves the purposes for which we have signed it. Thank you.
Question: Can you elaborate how this Agreement facilitates collaboration in nano and bio technology?
Minister Kapil Sibal : Well it is an umbrella agreement as you know, so bio technology and nano-technology are covered under it, apart from the fact that that is a part of the high tech dialogue with the United States. In fact, we are thinking in terms of collaboration with the United States in terms of setting up nano tech. As you know nano technology is now on mission mode in India. So last time when I was here, I went to some of these institutions which do nano, bio, and also, I should have told you that on Saturday when I arrived, in the evening I signed an agreement with the state of Maryland, or rather my Ministry signed an agreement with the State of Maryland, which is of course very advanced in the area of nano technology and we are already talking to them in terms of collaboration. What it does is that it allows institutions, it allows state governments, it allows universities to start collaborating with India on all the issues.
Question: Did the issue of cooperation in peaceful nuclear energy come up?
Minister Kapil Sibal: No, that issue did not come up.
Question: Last year when you were here you were mentioning that FDA is going to help us open some new centers.
Minister Kapil Sibal: No, what I said last time was that a protocol should be established between the FDA and the Ministry of Health, especially the Drug Controller. I believe that the Minister of Health was here afterwards and that he had a direct dialogue with the FDA on this, so I think that particular comment that I made is being recognized and movement forward is discernible.
Question: Is civilian nuclear technology covered under this umbrella?
Minister Kapil Sibal: Civilian nuclear collaboration is not outside this agreement.
Question: Can you talk about what energy co-operation does fall under the umbrella?
Minister Kapil Sibal: All kinds of energy, all aspects, whether its wind or solar or it’s any other form of energy.
Question: You mentioned this has been negotiated for the last 15 years – what were some of the hitches and stumbling blocks? I thought that science and technology was something that we could agree on without any hitches?
Minister Kapil Sibal: Well you know, I never look backward – that’s the way my Ministry functions, and if there were any hitches, it is not relevant – what is relevant is that we signed this agreement and we signed it quickly.
Question: Could you explain something about the IPR agreement?
Minister Kapil Sibal: Well, in general, if there is a joint project, then the IPR is going to be shared. That’s why I said the essence of the agreement is shared responsibilities and equitable contribution.
If you have, say, a joint program, where the team collectively does R&D in any field of science and technology, then the IPR will be shared. Individual projects can be dealt with differently depending on the collaboration reached amongst the two sides, and they may agree on a different formula for the purposes of sharing of IPR. Supposing for example, one side already has the IPR, and that IPR is contributed into the project - to that extent the IPR will be protected, and anything generated thereafter depends on how the project is going to evolve. So I don’t think that there is a straitjacket formula reflected in the agreement. The essence of the agreement is shared responsibilities and equitable contributions based on resources and based on the respective contribution in R&D by the two sides.
Question: Is it true that earlier, it got stuck, because there was no proper IPR protection?
Minister Kapil Sibal: Yes, the negotiations on Annex 1 which is the Annex protecting the IPR had not been finalized, but I don’t want to go into the reasons for that because those reasons are not relevant.
Question: Can you give us an overview on any discussions you may have had on disaster management.
Minister Kapil Sibal: No, there were no discussions on disaster management. This exercise was to pen this agreement, was to sign this agreement. This exercise was not for the purpose of discussing, between me and the Secretary of State as to what areas the scientific community must move together on, because that is something that the scientific community will do after this agreement is signed. They are already doing at an individual level, at a project to project level, but now under the umbrella of this agreement, the extent of collaboration will be far more diverse. The depth of collaboration will be far more interactive.
Question: Other than the Secretary of State, who else are you meeting in the Administration?
Minister Kapil Sibal: Nobody. I met with the President of the National Academy of Sciences this afternoon, and I have some other meetings, but not with the State Department.
Question: Science and Technology is the essence of progress for any nation. As you know, the contribution of the Indian American community in the United States is admired by everybody. In your negotiations with the United States government, did you talk about involvement of Indian Americans in this?
Minister Kapil Sibal: As I said, there were no negotiations with the United States government. I came here to sign this agreement, so there were no negotiations. But we already have a scheme in place for the scientific community which provides for the Diaspora to actually come and work in India and collaborate with us on certain schemes that have been advertised. These schemes have already been very positively received by the Diaspora in this part of the world. I must mention to you that our agreement with the State of Maryland is also of great significance because as you know, Maryland is the center of high technology in the United States of America, and so we wish to collaborate not just with the University, but with the State, and I had elaborate discussions with the representatives of the State of Maryland as to what kind of areas of collaboration that we can think of, and they are very, very keen to collaborate with us on various levels. They said, they would like to share high technology with us but at the same time they would like us to share the niche areas of technology which we possess because of the quality of the human resources in India. So I see in my discussions with various representatives – the desire to actually share knowledge with India. The sense is that they don’t want to withhold information, they want to share information.
Question: When you said University, did you mean John Hopkins?
Minister Kapil Sibal: John Hopkins too.
Question: Let me ask in a different way, this Indian American scientific community question. What role do you think that Indian American scientific community has played or can play in R&D, or in the future?
Minister Kapil Sibal: Huge role, it’s too broad a question. There are huge roles that they can play. If you are talking about the life sciences, you have got people in the bio tech settled in this country that are actually venture capitalists, who can hugely benefit, the kind of effervescence that is going on in the bio tech sector in India; in the pharma sector. there are Indian Americans who are holding key positions in many multinationals who in turn can play a very significant role in collaborations, not just between private entities, but also collaborations with Government. And I know, for example, some companies which have the Indian community represented in them are very keen to collaborate with the Science and Technology Department to take things forward.
Question: Sir, have they come forward to you?
Minister Kapil Sibal: If they hadn’t come forward to me, I wouldn’t have made that statement.
Question: Are they ready to make sacrifices and investments in India?
Minister Kapil Sibal: You cannot expect the Diaspora here to make sacrifices for nothing. Nobody does that. But certainly if there is something in it for them, then why would they not? They may go two steps further, but there must be some amount of benefit that they must get from that relationship.
Question: The last time you were here, you were trying to encourage American companies to invest in R&D in India. Once they get there, how is the government going to ensure that their innovations and the technology that they are bringing is protected, because I remember talking to potential investors in that conference that you addressed and they weren’t sure what patent laws were in India as yet.
Minister Kapil Sibal: I have to tell you this, and this should not surprise you. A hundred and fifty of the Fortune five hundred companies are in India already and if the intellectual property regime did not protect them, they would not be there - a hundred and fifty out of Fortune five hundred companies of the United States. I have never heard anybody till date in my last one and a half years, come and say – if we make an investment in India we will not be protected. In fact, it’s the other way around. They say that we are very happy with the fact that the patent regime is in place and we are very happy with that regime. There are some problems that we have, but I am sure in times to come, those problems will be resolved. So there is a sense of wanting to be there, and I think that the reason is that it is a win-win for both. They realize that India provides a huge market, a low cost economy and a high quality human resource, and I think that combination is not found anywhere in the world.