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[NEW DELHI] Science ministers from India, Brazil and South Africa have identified potential areas of trilateral scientific cooperation, including nanotechnology research and efforts to prevent and treat HIV/AIDS.

The first meeting of the countries' science ministers was held on Monday (25 October) as part of the India-Brazil-South Africa (IBSA) trilateral commission. It follows a June 2003 meeting of the three countries' foreign ministers in Brasilia, Brazil, which identified science and technology as one of the key areas for trilateral cooperation.

At this week's meeting, India's science minister Kapil Sibal suggested the three countries should form a group that would be at the forefront of international efforts to contain the HIV/AIDS epidemic, and should come together at next year's World Economic Forum to persuade developed countries to spend more on HIV/AIDS.

Sibal pointed out that while Western nations spend US$300 billion on agricultural subsidies, only $US3.6 billion are being spent on HIV/AIDS globally despite experts' recommendation that US$8-10 billion should be allocated by the international community by the end of 2004.

Also identified as areas for collaboration between the countries were nanotechnology and the use of biotechnology in the agriculture and health sectors. Sibal said that, with greater cooperation, IBSA had the potential to play a global role in nanotechnology, a field currently dominated by Germany, Japan and the United States.

Brazil's science minister Luis Manuel Rebelo Fernandes said Brazilian expertise in producing soya — Brazil is the world's second largest producer after the United States — and soya byproducts could be of use to other developing countries.

South Africa's deputy science minister Derek Hanekom suggested malaria — Africa's biggest killer — as a potential area for collaborative research between the three countries.

Last month, South Africa's President Thabo Mbeki and visiting Indian President Abdul Kalam announced plans to work together against HIV/AIDS, and that the two countries would cooperate on a programme using satellite technology to improve education in South Africa.