Special Correspondent

Kapil Sibal to sign expression of interest for participating in project

NEW DELHI: India is to become part of an international quest to find answers to various questions that have been dogging scientists relating to evolution of the universe. Union Science and Technology Minister Kapil Sibal would on Wednesday sign an expression of interest for participation in the setting up of a hi-tech international facility being established in Germany.

Being established by the European Union at a cost of Euros 2.7 billion, the facility would have the capability to generate intense high-energy beams of anti-protons and ions that scientists believe would help unravel the mysteries that still surround the events that could have occurred immediately after the Big Bang.

Although scientists do know approximately the sequence of events in the cosmic drama, there are still many unanswered fundamental questions. The Facility for Anti-Proton and Ion Reactor (FAIR) is intended to help answer some of these fascinating questions.

Mr. Sibal said his Ministry proposed to allocate Euros 80 million over the next seven years for this facility and several other projects of international importance. The Expression of Interest for participation in the FAIR project would be signed on the first day of a two-day India-European ministerial conference here on science.

Another major highlight of the meet on February 7-8 is that it is the first time ministerial delegations from E.U. member-countries would be meeting outside Europe. In all, 37 delegates from 20 E.U. member-States are participating.

Another interesting feature would be a session where icons of European science would interact with about 400 young research scholars and 600 school students.

The celebrities would include Nobel laureates Paul Crutzen and Bert Sakman, the Director General of CERN, the European Union's organisation for nuclear research, and CEOs of European companies such as the Suez French Water and Environment and Kema Energy Company. President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam will participate in a session on Thursday.

Addressing presspersons, Mr. Sibal said his Ministry also proposed to earmark up to Euros 5 million annually as matching funds for India-EU joint projects to be taken on a shared partnership basis under the India-EU S&T Agreement.

Earlier, at a separate press conference, Head of the E.U. delegation in India, Francisco da Camara Gomes, and German Ambassador Bernd Muetzelburg indicated that more projects involving Indian scientists would be funded under the E.U.'s seventh framework programme for research and technological development, which was launched recently.