STAFF REPORT ISB: As the need for science diplomacy in modern times is growing, in view of the emerging challenges of environment, health and food security, it is imperative for Pakistan to be abreast with current advances in the international scientific arena so as to make informed decisions to secure the well-being of general masses.

These remarks were made by Amjad Hussain B Sial, Special Secretary (PP/West Asia), Ministry of Foreign Affairs, at a roundtable meeting organized recently by COMSATS Secretariat, Islamabad for the launch of Science Diplomacy.

Eminent scientists, academicians, government functionaries, as well as officials of COMSATS Secretariat attended the meeting.

In his opening remarks, Executive Director COMSATS, Dr. Imtinan Elahi Qureshi, said that the genesis of COMSATS is based on the premise that SandT plays a central role in socio-economic development agenda. Therefore, it follows that policy-makers in developing countries have to be sensitized about the importance of SandT capacity-building as a fulcrum of development strategy, he said.

While defining the contours of science diplomacy, he said that developing countries will have to tailor all sectors of science diplomacy and create relevant expertise to safeguard their national interests.

Dr. Arshad Saleem Bhatti, Dean Faculty of Sciences, COMSATS Institute of Information Technology (CIIT), in his remarks, cited the examples of several international collaborative research projects, where scientists belonging to different nations have been working together despite the political differences between their countries.

As the coordinator of the programme, he gave an outline of the planned activities that pertain to science advocacy and popularization, formation of a think-tank, establishment of COMSATS Diplomacy Centre, and organization of seminars and roundtable discussions for key stakeholders.

On the occasion, five science experts were designated as “COMSATS Science Ambassadors” in various fields that included: Dr. Arshad S. Bhatti (Physics); Dr. Athar Hussain (Climate Change); Dr. Raheel Qamar (Biotechnology); and Dr. Nasrullah Khan (Energy), from CIIT, as well as Dr. M. Sabieh Anwar (Engineering and Technology) from LUMS. Moreover, Dr. I.E. Qureshi was unanimously conferred the title of Science Ambassador Emeritus in the field of Science Diplomacy.

In his keynote address delivered via Skype, Dr. Peter McGrath, Coordinator, TWAS Science Diplomacy/Science Policy programme, argued that science diplomacy as a movement has been taking root in and among developing countries for several years. He quoted some of the organizational as well as state-level science diplomacy initiatives from across the globe. Brazil and Cuba were mentioned for their success in using agriculture and health diplomacy, respectively, in strengthening their international relations. While for the organizational level initiatives, the roles of COMSATS, ECO-Science Foundation, ESCWA and Nelson Mandela African Institute of Science and Technology (NM-AIST) were highlighted.

Suggestions, ideas, and concerns were also shared by the designated Science Ambassadors and participants during a general discussion session chaired by Dr. Anwar Nasim, President of Pakistan Academy of Sciences. Ways were discussed to make the COMSATS Science Diplomacy programme effective and how it can be tailored to addressing the needs of the developing counties.

The participants discussed matters ranging from popularization of science, quality of science education at the grass root level, to resolving the regional disputes with neighboring countries through effective diplomatic means backed by sound scientific expertise. Media, it was agreed, was a key player in popularizing science, as well as conducting science advocacy. In the context of Pakistan-India relations, a need for an equitable scientific solution to address the issue of water stress was emphasized to normalize the relations between the two neighboring countries. In the context of Pakistan-India relations, a need for an equitable scientific solution to address the issue of water stress was emphasized to normalize the relations between the two neighboring countries.

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