In a unique honour, former president A P J Abdul Kalam was on Monday presented with the King Charles II Medal for his outstanding contribution to the practice and promotion of science in India.
Lord Martin Rees, president of The Royal Society, presented the medal and a scroll to Kalam in the presence of a distinguished gathering, including NRI industrialist Lord Swaraj Paul, Lord Karan Billimoria, chief of the Cobra Beer, Acting High Commissioner of India to the UK Asoke Mukerjee and Lord Meghnad Desai, a leading economist, at the Royal Society.
Kalam is only the second leader to have received the coveted award which was constituted in 1997, the first being Emperor Akihito of Japan in 1998.
Thanking the Royal Society for bestowing the honour on him, Kalam said he considered it as an unique honour "to India and its people".
There are over 60 Nobel Laureates amongst the 1,400 Fellows and Foreign Members (of the Royal Society) and "their contribution to the scientific field have enriched science and societal development", he said.
Kalam, himself an eminent scientist, said he was working on two areas that have a mission potential to have a positive effect on the societal development. They are: Energy Independence and World Knowledge Platform.
Presenting the silver-gilt medal, Lord Rees described Kalam as an "ideal recipient" of the award for his contribution to the defence programme of India as scientific advisor to the government and his Technology Vision 2020.
"He is tireless in promoting science and technology as India emerges as a super power in the 21st century."
Lord Rees said the medal was symbolic in strengthening their ties with India. Referring to critical problems facing the world, Kalam said two important issues came to the mind.
"First one is the continuous depletion of fossil-material-derived, oil, gas and coal reserves as predicted by World Energy Forum and the second one is the continuous degradation of environment primarily due to extensive use of fossil materials for generating energy.
Focusing on Energy Independence in India, he said India has 17 per cent of the world's population, but only about 0.8 per cent of the world's known oil and natural gas resources.
Based on the progress visualized for the nation during the next two decades, the power-generating capacity has to increase to 400,000 MW by the year 2030 from the current 130,000 MW in India.
"Energy independence has got to be achieved through three different sources namely renewable energy (solar, wind and hydro power), electrical power from nuclear energy and bio-fuel for the transportation sector," he noted.
He said the Royal Society could certainly contribute to set up an international forum to address these issues, and accelerate the research and development efforts needed in this direction.
He also suggested evolution of a "World Knowledge Platform" for bringing together the core competence of multiple nations in science and technology leading to the development of unique systems for global applications.