COMSATS AND CHINA: YEARS OF COOPERATION FOR SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY- LED DEVELOPMENT

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From recently abating COVID-19 pandemic to unprecedented climatic events in the world, including the devastating floods that affected most of Pakistan to say the least, international cooperation narrative is ripe for fresh reflections on development, cooperation and innovation.

Role of ST&I is undeniable and joint global, regional and national approaches towards taking such challenges head-on cannot be overemphasized.

Most of this comes under the mandate of COMSATS’ objectives that champions the cause by bringing together nations that are most vulnerable to such global threats.

Fortunately, COMSATS’ member countries have some inherent strengths and development potential, including scientific excellence available to COMSATS’ fraternity through growth achieved in the S&T sector, such as that demonstrated by China over the years.

With the cutting edge technology in all the major areas of S&T, China has already surpassed major developed countries.

The phenomenal progress being made by China has helped in bringing millions of people in the country above the poverty line and the economic benefits of Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) are projected to reach billions of people across the globe. This notable development of global significance has also resulted in emergence of China as a world leader in Science, Technology and Innovation.

The S&T plan formulated by the Government of China in 2017 has specific programmes in the areas of S&T, people-to-people exchanges, joint laboratories, science park cooperation and technology transfer.

With many shared values of China and other member countries, COMSATS continues to play its role as a regional leader of South-South Cooperation to transform the lives of millions of people, not only in Pakistan (host to COMSATS Secretariat) but also in other developing countries across the globe.

China – a founding member of COMSATS – and its institutions have played an important role in this pursuit over the years. From generous financial contributions to providing strong scientific and technical base for COMSATS’ programmes, projects and activities, the country has remained steadfast in supporting the organization since its establishment in 1994.

Two of COMSATS Centres of Excellence (out of 24 in 3 continents) –regional leaders in the fields of Climate Science and Industrial Biotechnology – are from China.

These are: International Centre for Climate and Environment Sciences (ICCES), Beijing,and Tianjin Institute of Industrial Biotechnology (TIB), Tianjin.

Active support ofthe Chinese Ministry of Science and Technology (MoST)and Chinese Academy of Sciences(CAS) is available to COMSATS, inter alia, through (i) a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) that was inked withthe ChineseMoST for multilateral cooperation among nations including COMSATS’ Member Statesunder BRI’s umbrella; and (ii) COMSATS Joint Centre for Industrial Biotechnology (CCIB)that was established in April 2021 with the technical facilitation from TIB.

The idea of institutionalization of CCIB was materialized with the patronage of Chinese Ministry of S&T (RMB. 2.9 Million/US$ 448,250/-) and Tianjin local government (RMB. 5 Million/US$ 772,845/-).Its inauguration received a warm response from the host country of COMSATS, Pakistan, in that the honorable Federal Minister for Science and Technology, Government of Pakistan,chaired the virtual session from Islamabad.

CCIB is promoting cooperation in Bio-medicine, Bio-agriculture, Future Food, Biomaterials, Bio-chemicals and Bio-energy under six Joint R&D Groups (JRDGs).

Initiating in 2019 through membership, cooperation between COMSATS andChina-basedAlliance of International Science Organizations (ANSO) have culminated in a number of activities relating to sustainabledevelopment, leadership, management, policy making and ST&I benefitting future leaders and entrepreneurs globally, including those from COMSATS Member States – Egypt, The Gambia, Ghana, Iran, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Nigeria, Palestine, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Syria, and Tanzania.

COMSATS’ institutional membership has also enabled COMSATS Member States and Centres of Excellence to participate in ANSO’s activities,including fellowships and scholarships; prizes and awards; training programmes; collaborative research; and professional associations. Funding awardsby ANSO are bringing together scientists from China, Thailand,Turkey, Pakistan, Palestine, and Tanzania for joint research projects.

Under the Belt & Road International Innovation Development Institute Network (ANSO-BIDI) launched in July 2021, regular online training coursesare being held which are benefitting COMSATS’ Member States and institutions on a number of themes including: science diplomacy for sustainable development, technology and social science, financing sustainability, disruptive technologies, economic policies against climate change, economics for biodiversity conservation, supply-chain responsiveness, sustainable development growth in digital economy era, and sustainable business in practice.

COMSATS brings together 27 countries from 3 continents, and 24 S&T/R&D/higher education institutions are collaborating under the organization’s umbrella, apart from serving their national interests and priorities.

The geographical placement of COMSATSMember States, i.e., Africa (12), Asia (13), Eurasia (01) and Latin America (02) make the organization a fraternity of nations with different histories, ethnicities, cultures, and religions coming together for resource-sharing for S&T-led development. The organization has been helping build capacities to address a wide spectrum of global challenges faced by the South.

In its 28 years of overarching initiatives based on creative approaches, COMSATS has promoted capacity building, sharing of knowledge, experiences and good practices, technological research outcomes and education, know-how and scientific resources.

China’s 73rd National Day coincides with COMSATS’ 28th Anniversary, which marks 28 years of shared vision and joint work for S&T-led sustainable development through South-South cooperation.

Over the years, this founding Member State of COMSATS has been steadfast in supporting the organization’s operations in a multitude of ways.

During this long haul association, the country itself has made great progress and set standards and ideals of national development to aspire for other countries of the South; some of which join the same fraternity with China through membership of COMSATS.

COMSATS looks forward to continued cooperation with state and scientific institutions of China for South-South cooperation for S&T-led development.

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