An IDC Analysis


New Delhi, 24 March 2004

Dr AQ Khan’s escapades on proliferation of nuclear technology have become stale and the important subject for discussion now is the so called –– Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI).

In the cases of sale of Pakistani nuclear technology for missiles and the N Korean ship Ko Wol Son which was caught at Kandla carrying missile parts manifested as sugar making machinery, a documentary entitled “Behind the Axis of Evil” had tried to explain the Pakistan, China and N. Korea nexus. It was made six months ago by Iqbal Malhotra of AIM but was not very well received. Today many countries are showing the documentary and we recommend experts to get hold of this docudrama, for lay people of a country to understand how important PSI is. India as a nuclear state and part of the exclusive club has to see there is no more proliferation. In this analysis we wish to highlight that proliferation is more rampant than previously thought and how USA has articulated PSI and how India can support it.

What is PSI?

Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI) and the IAEA’s Additional Protocol were adopted in the aftermath of 9/11 with the aim of interdicting ships, airplanes and cargos suspected of carrying weapons of mass destruction (WMD). The IAEA adopted the Additional Protocol in 1997 as a result of “Program 93+2”. The Protocol aimed at enhancing IAEA’s technical ability and intrusiveness to verify compliance of NPT obligations by States.

States with agreement for full-scope safeguards with the IAEA can negotiate individually with the IAEA to accept an Additional Protocol (also known as Model Protocol, INFCIRC/540 Safeguards Agreement). The Additional Protocol then serves as a complimentary legal document to the existing full-scope safeguards. Post 9/11, states on the US list of “axis of evil” were forced to accept the “Additional Protocol”. This raised fears that it may perhaps become a norm to control other States’ nuclear programs instead of eliminating WMD threats from non-state actors and other amorphous entities.

It is also notable that traditional non-proliferation measures involving international bodies like the United Nations — which has a wide range of international institutions and structures — had been marginalized in the context of dealing with the WMD threats, in favour of US unilateralism.

Today proliferation of nuclear weapons and knowhow is worrying the world. The world was nuclear wise stable till 9/11 despite India and Pakistan going nuclear and not signing the NPT and CTBT. This was because the ABM Treaty of 1972 and USSR–USA dialogue to reduce nuclear weapons was moving ahead.. However, today USA has decided to go unilaterally with likeminded nations, and it has its strong points. Terrorism whether it is Bio or Nuclear is a clear and present danger.

Proliferation Security Initiatives came into USA after the 9/11 attacks and rightly so, but only 16 states have so far supported it and it has no legal sanction. The Law of the Seas does not allow any nation to arbitrarily inspect ships at sea and Art 23 gives a right to ships to convey nuclear material. Hence there is a clear contradiction between ‘freedom of the seas’ and surveillance needs of 'board and search',  which is advocated by PSI.


The IAEA is the designated agency to ensure full inspection of nuclear plants and facilities. The safeguards and technical verification procedures are designed to see that nuclear materials do not get into the hands of non-nuclear states for weapon making –– though India and Pakistan evaded these and Iraq was suspect. South Africa under Waldo Stumfph closed its nuclear facilities but one knows they can be restarted to make bombs as the know how exists. Israel has the capability and Brazil is near it too. The efficacy of IAEA as a watchdog agency is suspect as seen in the cases of Iraq, Iran and N. Korea –– not much needs to be said about India and Pakistan as they too managed to go nuclear despite IAEA. The aim of IAEA is to DETECT the transfer of nuclear material and trail it in nuclear facilities. Hence, in non-nuclear named facilities they have no power to inspect.

PSI is therefore the tool to do so and International Law must evolve to achieve it, though like the Iraq war it is mainly unilateral at present. Therein lies the catch. Hence under PSI additional protocols were made to verify “correctness to completeness” of information. Even intelligence inputs can be acted upon. Inspectors were to be given extra powers of inspection by tools, cameras etc. Iraq was a good example. Although Iran signed the NPT it managed to get away. There were several violations.


We wish to emphasize that PSI and Additional Protocol are objective but not yet universally accepted, as nuclear countries would like to safeguard their own interests and others like Iran would like to go nuclear. So the UN needs to be involved. But the truth is that earlier western nations had supplied materials for making WMDs to nations with a Nelson’s eye. Today they want PSI to become their Nelson’s eye.

Many Indians in MEA, academia and mainstream feel that PSI is being pursued by USA as a club approach, but we would like to urge that India joins the club. If preemption is the norm, then India should consider PSI seriously. India has to stabilize the neighborhood and cannot shine alone in South Asia. Most experts agree that PSI will eventually come into force –– only the degree of implementation will vary depending upon how the nuclear and western nations respond.

PSI vs Law of the Seas make an interesting subject for ensuring the freedom of the seas. PSI insists on a ‘board and search’ approach. At present board and search is permitted for piracy, contraband and ensuring local laws in territorial waters, but PSI  as articulated by USA wants it to be an all encompassing anticipatory action. So many legal hurdles will have be overcome. Another factor to be overcome will be that operationally PSI will be difficult to prosecute.

Our attempt has been to explain PSI in simple terms –– let not experts confuse you!

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