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[NEW DELHI] India and the United States signed three science pacts, covering clean energy, disease surveillance and monsoon forecasting, during US president Barack Obama's Asia visit this week.

The signing of the pacts was announced by Indian prime minister Manmohan Singh in a joint press briefing by him and Obama yesterday. Singh referred to Obama's statement on Sunday (7 November) that the India–US partnership is "one of the defining and indispensable partnerships of the 21st century".

The two countries signed a five-year memorandum of understanding in Delhi yesterday on launching a global diseases detection centre in India to share information on, and respond to, emerging infections. India's National Centre for Disease Control and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) will oversee the collaboration.

The centre is the seventh to be set up under the CDC's Global Disease Detection (GDD) programme, which began in 2004 to detect and contain emerging infections. The other six centres are in China, Egypt, Guatemala, Kazakhstan, Kenya and Thailand. The Indian centre will focus on zoonotic diseases that can be transmitted from animals to humans —  for example, bird flu, dengue and leishmaniasis.

Indian and US researchers will also work together to improve understanding of the links between air, land and ocean systems that influence the Indian monsoon. Technical cooperation between India's Ministry of Earth Sciences and the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is expected to be useful for improving monsoon prediction models.

The countries will set up a 'monsoon desk' at NOAA to coordinate monsoon model simulations. They will also attempt a two-week prediction of the 2011 monsoon using a global model.

Also on the agenda is an India–US Clean Energy Research and Development Center to facilitate the joint research, development and deployment of clean energy technologies, with initial focus on solar energy, second generation biofuels and energy-efficient buildings.

The centre, to be set up with US$5 million from each government, will involve academics, national laboratories, the private sector and non-government organisations.