India became an Associate member of CERN on January 16, 2017 with the Indian government completing its internal approval procedures in respect of the agreement it had signed with CERN on November 21, 2016.
On November 21, 2016, Dr. Sekhar Basu, Chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission and Secretary of the Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) and Dr. Fabiola Gianotti, CERN Director General signed an Agreement to admit India to CERN as an Associate member. But India had to “notify CERN of its final approval for the Agreement to enter into force” and become an Associate member, which it did yesterday.
“As an Associate member, India will have full access to all data generated at CERN. As there are many experiments in CERN, there will be plenty of information available. When we were not an Associate member, India could get data only from those experiments where we were participating,” says Dr. Basu.
“As an Associate member, India can participate in all experiments. We may have to pay additional charges for participating in the experiments. We can choose the experiments where India wants to participate,” he adds.
There are other benefits of becoming an Associate member. Whenever any CERN facility gets upgraded and goes through maintenance, it will provide opportunities for Indian industries to participate. “Indian industry will be entitled to bid for CERN contracts, which will allow it to work in areas of advanced technology. So the “Make in India” will get a boost due to CERN,” he says. “India will definitely be more competitive than others.”
Since Indian scientists will become eligible for staff appointments, it will enhance the participation of young scientists and engineers in operation and maintenance of various CERN projects. “Indian scientists and engineers working in CERN will learn how to operate and maintain the facilities. So when they return it will be useful for India,” Dr. Basu says.
India has to pay about Rs.40 crore a year as an Associate member. According to him, it is a small fee compared to the huge scientific and commercial benefits that India will stand to gain.
According to the release, being an Associate member will allow India to take part in meetings of the CERN Council and its committees (Finance Committee and Scientific Policy Committee).
India has been actively involved in CERN’s scientific activities for over 50 years. “Indian physicists, engineers and technicians have made substantial contributions to the construction of the LHC accelerator and to the ALICE and CMS experiments, as well as to accelerator R&D projects,” said Dr. Gianotti in a CERN release.
In 1991, India and CERN signed a Cooperation Agreement, setting priorities for scientific and technical cooperation. India and CERN have signed several other protocols since then. But India’s involvement in CERN began in the 1960s with researchers from the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research, Mumbai participating in experiments at CERN. In the 1990s scientists from Raja Ramanna Centre for Advanced Technology, Indore too got involved in CERN experiment. Researchers from TIFR, Raja Ramanna Centre for Advanced Technology and other institutes built components for an accelerator (LEP) and detectors (L3, WA93 and WA89). India was granted Observer status to the CERN Council in 2002.
The CERN convention was signed in 1953 by the 12 founding states — Belgium, Denmark, France, the Federal Republic of Germany, Greece, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and Yugoslavia. Currently, CERN has 22 member states. Besides India, Turkey, Pakistan, Ukraine are Associate members and Serbia and Cyprus are associate members in the pre-stage to membership.