WASHINGTON, July 3: The Delhi-Washington defence pact signed this week would allow India to join a multilateral task force formed to monitor the movement of weapons of mass destruction across international borders.
The 10-year agreement provides India a backdoor entry into the US-led 11-nation Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI).
The provisions of the initiative allow the member nations to stop and search air, sea and land cargo based on mere suspicion that these could be linked to WMDs. Such searches can be conducted in sovereign waters and airspace.
A posting on the US State Department’s official Website says that the PSI member states would have the right to stop and search ships not only inside their coastal borders, but also in international waters merely on the suspicion that a vessel could be carrying missile shipments.
The PSI includes the US, Britain, France, Germany, Spain, Portugal, Italy, Australia, Japan, Poland and the Netherlands. Asian and African countries have kept out of the initiative so far.
Some of the provisions of the PSI allow the 11 nations and other potential members to board and search any vessel, under their jurisdiction in another state’s waters, suspected of carrying targeted cargoes. They are also required to allow its own vessels to be boarded and searched by other states when targeted cargo is suspected. They can take steps to board and search other states’ vessels in a state’s territorial waters and harbours as well as inspect the suspected cargo craft and seize such cargo in their ports, airfields or other facilities.
Three years ago, Indian and US Navy ships participated in joint escort duties in the Malacca Straits using the excuse of checking piracy and terrorism to justify this action. The Indian Navy ship INS Sharda was pressed into service to escort American commercial vehicles carrying ‘high value’ goods through the strait.