India and the US are likely to sign two key agreements in July that would exempt prominent Indian citizens from immigration checks in America and pave the way for exchange of information on terrorists on a real time basis.
The two pacts on Global Entry–a US Customs and Border Protection programme that permits speedy clearance for pre-approved, low-risk travellers upon arrival in America and the Homeland Security Presidential Directive-6 (HSPD-6), which allows access to information on terrorists– are expected to be signed during the Homeland Security Dialogue.
Home Minister Rajnath Singh will lead the Indian delegation at US-India Homeland Security Dialogue to be held in Washington in July, while the US team would be headed by Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Charles Johnson.
The US has been pressing for India’s inclusion in the Global Entry so that high dignitaries like former Presidents, former Prime Ministers, former Union Ministers, film stars, top industrialists and frequent flyers could visit America without any hassle, a senior government official said.
Initially, the names of around 2,000 prominent Indians could figure in the coveted list, which would be expanded gradually after proper background checks of each individual.
Individuals included in the list enter the US through automatic kiosks at select airports. At airports, programme members proceed to Global Entry kiosks, present their machine-readable passport, place their fingerprints on the scanner for fingerprint verification and complete a customs declaration.
The kiosk issues the traveller a transaction receipt and directs the traveller to baggage claim and the exit.
Two important conditions for inclusion of an individual in the Global Entry programme are that he or she should not have any criminal record or be in anyway connected with a money laundering case.
So far, citizens of seven countries are included in America’s Global Entry programme. The countries are: Germany, The Netherlands, South Korea, Taiwan, United Kingdom, Panama and Mexico. Negotiations are on with Brazil and India to be part of the programme.
The other key pact which New Delhi may enter into is the Homeland Security Presidential Directive-6 (HSPD-6), which will enable it to access ‘unclassified biographic information of known and suspected terrorists’ maintained by the US on a reciprocal basis.
The HSPD-6 is a model text agreement proposed by the US to India for exchange of terrorist screening information between Terrorist Screening Centre (TSC) of the US and an Indian agency.
There have been several rounds of discussions between the interlocutors of the two countries in the past one year and both sides have narrowed down their differences on several key issues with the aim of signing the pact at the next Homeland Security Dialogue.
The US has already finalised such agreements with 30 countries.
TSC is a multi agency organisation administered by FBI which consolidates several terrorist watch lists maintained by different US government agencies into single terrorist database on terror suspects.
The database includes the name of the terror suspect, nationality, date of birth, photos, finger prints (if any) and passport number.
Officials said, initially some Indian security agencies had expressed their reservations saying the arrangement primarily protects US interests.
However, later, the security agencies came to the conclusion that there was no disadvantage in entering into the proposed pact with TSC. The Intelligence Bureau will be the nodal agency and designated as the Indian party to the agreement.
It was agreed that while signing the pact, it must be ensured that privacy issues are taken care of, officials said.