Manmohan, Merkel flag off Indo-German Science Express


New Delhi : Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and German Chancellor Angela Merkel Tuesday flagged off the Science Express — a mobile science exhibition on a train that will visit 57 towns across India over the next seven months. It aims to kindle scientific curiosity among the Indian youth.

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“Science Express will travel the length and breath of this country to propagate scientific temper. This train will build new bridges of understanding between India and Germany,” Manmohan Singh said before launching the train from the Safdarjung Railway station.

“Science Express will propagate science among the youth of India and reach every state,” the prime minister said.

“I am delighted to be here to celebrate with you today. This is going to be a fascinating rolling science exhibition,” said a beaming Merkel.

Merkel began her official visit to India Tuesday morning with an inter-services ceremonial guard of honour at the red sandstone presidential palace Rashtrapati Bhavan. President Pratibha Patil and Manmohan Singh received her.

Merkel spoke glowingly of the new warmth and strength in India-Germany relations on her first visit to India since she became chancellor over two years ago.

Merkel, who is a scientist, underlined that in a world of six billion people, she was deeply convinced that one had to make good use of all that science had to offer to ensure people lived without poverty, with prosperity and without destroying the planet.

The German government had initiated a high technology strategy concentrating on 17 important areas of science and would like to share developments of importance with India, she said.

“There is a lot we can do together with India,” she stressed. The two countries will launch an Indo-German Science Centre aimed at jointly developing new technologies every day.

The white train with eight coaches, which showcases current and futuristic research in various areas — including IT, biotechnology, health technology and systems — has been jointly developed by German and Indian state and private entities.

Around 15 agencies from both sides collaborated to put up the exhibition in nine months.

The exhibition, which is being packaged for the first time on a train, was conceived by India’s department of science and technology, Germany’s federal ministry of education and research and the Max Planck Society.

Later in the day, India and Germany will sign a slew of agreements in areas ranging from trade and energy to defence and technology, cementing strategic and economic ties between one of Asia’s growing economies and Europe’s industrial giant.

Manmohan Singh and Merkel, who arrived here Monday night, will hold talks on a broad range of bilateral, regional and global issues including UN reforms, climate change, energy security and cooperation in the Doha round of multilateral trade negotiations.

German Education and Research Minister Annette Schavan and around 30 top business leaders representing big brands like European plane maker Airbus, conglomerate Siemens, rail operator Deutsche Bahn and reinsurer Munich Re are accompanying Merkel.