Anti-proliferation initiative: India open to joining America
* Mukherjee says India sharing military information with China
By Iftikhar Gilani
NEW DELHI: India indicated on Saturday that it is willing to join the US-led Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI) group to stop nuclear proliferation activity in the India Ocean.
Also for the first time, India revealed that it was sharing “information on military matters” with China under the new Sino-India strategic dialogue.
In his concluding address to the seventh Asian Security Conference here, Indian Defence Minister Pranab Mukherjee said maritime security has emerged as a common challenge for East Asian nations. He said the PSI proposal needs to be “examined in greater detail”.
India had been reluctant when invited by the Bush administration during the Iraq war to join the non-UN sponsored PSI. Under the initiative, India will acquire the role of a “regional policeman” and its navy will be authorised to intercept and search ships in the Indian Ocean traversing the Straits of Malacca. The United States is of the view that the move will soothe New Delhi’s nerves after it conferred non-NATO ally status to Pakistan. Over 60,000 ships pass through the Straits each year - more than double that traverse the Suez Canal and nearly treble that use the Panama Canal.
Mukherjee cautioned that proliferation through sea lanes was a real risk, and the recent seizures of North Korean and other ships carrying missile components could be “the tip of the iceberg”.
He emphasised the “urgent need” to institutionalise regional mechanisms aimed at dealing with these threats, adding that the Indian Navy and Coast Guards could play a significant role in building up maritime cooperation with other regional navies to deal with these threats.
Mukherjee said India had been successful in institutionalising the Sino-Indian dialogue while boosting economic cooperation with Beijing. “Our security ties have undergone a change, with the resumption of military ties signified by joint exercises, bilateral visits and sharing of information on military matters of joint interest,” he said.
On concerns that South Asia could be a nuclear flashpoint, Mukherjee said nuclear proliferation should not be compartmentalised and regional relevance should be considered with global concerns.
The minister said along with the security of sea lanes, the other major security threat in the region was terrorism, particularly “cross-border terrorism”. He said India shared this security challenge with Southeast Asia and added that a joint Indo-ASEAN initiative on this front could be successful.
Mukherjee said India’s believed there could be no double standards in the global fight against terrorism. “A terrorist is a terrorist, irrespective of cause and provenance,” he said.
He said the fight against terrorism required the comprehensive use of diplomatic, economic, military, financial and other instruments of national power, such as law enforcement and intelligence. “Common doctrinal understanding, sharing of intelligence and coordination of efforts has thus become imperative,” he said.
Mukherjee said India’s strategic perspective towards East Asia was based on two fundamental principles - the maintenance of an equitable strategic balance and prevention of regional rivalries from de-stabilising the area. He said this was vital for India’s security and New Delhi would like to engage all players in the region both bilaterally and collectively through institutions like the Asian Regional Forum.