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India Invites Pakistani Scientists

The recent India-Pakistan summit may have ended in a diplomatic stalemate, but it did produce new joint research and training opportunities that the Indian government hopes will provide a back channel for improving relations between the two nuclear neighbors.

On the eve of the failed summit, Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee unveiled a plan to award 20 scholarships to Pakistani students at Indian technical institutions. He also invited Pakistani academics to visit the country "as guests of the government of India." The focus would be on education, health, environment, and gender equity, with the goal of building trust through collaborative research.

"There is an enormous amount of misinformation about India in Pakistan," says Pavagada Venkata Indresan, former president of the Indian National Academy of Engineering. "But once young minds can be trained at India's top technical institutions, a more positive message would certainly go out."

Pakistan so far has reacted cautiously to the overture, with a government spokesperson calling the idea "peripheral" to efforts to normalize relations. But India's foreign minister Jaswant Singh, speaking after the summit, said that he hoped the scholarship and visitation programs, once implemented, "will make an important contribution."