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[ISLAMABAD] Afghan and Pakistani scientists will collaborate on shared problems under an initiative that aims to bring researchers closer together.

The Global Knowledge Initiative (GKI), a global alliance of universities, foundations and businesses, has launched the collaboration, in which the two countries will identify areas in which they both want to build research and training capacity.

"We aim to bring these two nations closer in science and technology cooperation through joint training, research and sharing of resources, which would not only save on resources but will also promise rapid development in the region," Amanda Lilley Rose, GKI programme officer told SciDev.Net.

"It would be to the great advantage of Afghanistan and Pakistan to collaborate in science, technology and higher education to create a peaceful knowledge society and to advance the region economically," Nina Fedoroff, science and technology advisor to the US Secretary of State told SciDev.Net.

Shared issues might include research on drought-tolerant crops, agro-industrial processing, low-cost energy production, and information and communication technologies.

Partners will include the Islamabad-based Organisation of the Islamic Conference's Standing Committee on Scientific and Technological Cooperation (COMSTECH) and the Network of Academies of Science in OIC (Organisation of the Islamic Conference) Countries (NASIC).

If the partners can secure funding, they are hoping to get Pakistani experts to train Afghani counterparts, deliver online educational resources to Afghanistan via the Virtual University of Pakistan and extend Pakistan's National Digital Library to its neighbour.

Mohammad Ali Mahesar, assistant coordinator general of COMSTECH, welcomed the cooperation but underlined the need for funding to get the programme going.

So far, the project has received seed funding from the Richard Lounsbery Foundation.

The GKI said it has been inspired to focus on Afghanistan, Pakistan and the Middle East and North Africa region by US president Barack Obama's "call to action" in his Cairo speech of 2009, in which he promised scientific and technological help to Muslim-majority countries.

GKI said that it is seeking to complement science projects in the region funded by US bodies such as the National Academy of Sciences, and the US Agency for International Development, which tend to link US universities and researchers to Pakistani or Afghani partners.

"Few efforts centre on joint Pakistani-Afghani partnerships," it said.

Other partners in the GKI initiative will include the Higher Education Commission, Pakistan, Lahore University of Management Sciences, Academy of Sciences of Afghanistan, Pakistan Academy of Sciences and the Academy of Sciences of the Developing World (TWAS).