By Ambassador of India, Nagma M. Mallick

 Tunisia, on the northern-most reaches of the African continent, is an African country with which India has a fast-growing and increasingly diverse relationship of cooperation.  Tunisia is a middle-income country with good socio-economic indices and an educated and skilled population.  This is reflected in the cooperation projects that India has begun with Tunisia.

India is committed to developing a new paradigm of cooperation in science and technology which takes into account Africa's own aspirations for pan-African institutions, as announced under the India-Africa Science & Technology Initiative at the India-Africa Forum Summit held in New Delhi in 2008.  The African Union Commission has identified three scientific institutes in Benin, Gabon and Tunisia respectively for support by the Indian scientific community to work on specific problems of the African continent and to find practical scientific solutions for them. Accordingly, a relationship of close cooperation has been launched between the Institut Pasteur of Tunis and the International Centre for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology (ICGEB) of New Delhi headed by Prof. Hechmi Louzir and Prof. V.S. Chauhan respectively.


A workshop on biotechnology and health sciences was held between the two institutes in Tunis on May 23, 2013, in which many aspects of the control of infectious diseases were discussed including practical measures in the control of  malaria and kala-azar, development of vaccines and building technological know-how for capacity building for African countries.  It was decided that the Institut Pasteur would be twinned with several leading laboratories of India towards capacity building in vaccine research and production.


India is today one of the leading countries of the world in the sector of biotechnology; it is the only country with WHO-certified capability of producing live tissue cultures and materials for use inside the human body.  The ICGEB is the premier biotech research centre of India in this sector and Prof. Chauhan is a renowned scientist who has made major contributions in the fields of malaria vaccine, drug research and in design and synthesis of peptides of biological importance, including in vaccine designs for HIV and novel antibiotics.


Other cooperation between India and Tunisia in science and technology is proceeding apace. During the 3rd Session of the bilateral Working Group in Science & Technology, also held in Tunis in May 2013, cooperation in areas such as material sciences, information science and renewable energy was taken forward.  Tunisian and Indian researchers were selected for availing of joint funding for joint research in diverse fields to be carried out in the two countries.  Tunisians are also participating in growing numbers in the prestigious C V Raman Fellowship Programme of the Indian government launched in 2010 especially for African researchers to promote greater scientific cooperation between India and Africa.


Another interesting area of cooperation is in the field of business management training.  The Indian Institute of Foreign Trade (IIFT) conducted a week-long Executive Development Programme on International Business in Tunis in September 2013.  Young career diplomats and government officials from various ministries of the government of Tunisia participated in the training programme. Expertise in international trade procedures and documents, global supply chain management, among other areas, was shared by the four visiting professors of the IIFT, while topics of economic diplomacy and strategies for enhancing exports from Tunisia were also discussed in interactive sessions.  This training module is also part of the cooperation framework between India and Africa articulated and reinvigorated at the India Africa Forum Summit held in April 2008.


An exciting new channel of communication and interaction has been opened between the young people of the two countries by Indiafrica: A Shared Future, an initiative seeking to link the young communities of the two countries by a series of art and essay competitions, film and cuisine-related interactions and so on.


After having removed a dictator through the non-violent Revolution for Liberty and Dignity in January 2011, Tunisia continues as a beacon of democracy in the region, moving ahead in its transition to a durable democracy using the tools of negotiation and consensus building to arrive at its goal.  India fully supports the democratic transition in Tunisia and looks forward to cooperation between the election-organizing authorities of the two countries and thereafter close cooperation between the two legislatures as well as a close and diversified relationship between the two governments with greater cooperation in areas of mutual interest.