Arms Trade Treaty:

Im­pli­ca­tions for In­dia

SP's MAI - - MILITARY - [ By Air Mar­shal (Retd) Anil Cho­pra ]

OOn April 2, 2013, the 193-mem­ber United Na­tions ap­proved the first-ever global Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) with an aim to reg­u­late the $70 bil­lion arms trade. The of­fi­cial UN tally showed 154 votes in favour, three against and 23 ab­sten­tions. Iraq, Syria and North Korea op­posed. China, Rus­sia, In­dia, Cuba, In­done­sia, Sri Lanka and Egypt were among those who ab­stained.

The treaty is based on the Ar­ti­cle 26 of Char­ter of United Na­tions that seeks to pro­mote in­ter­na­tional peace and se­cu­rity and least diver­sion of ar­ma­ments, with the ex­plicit aim of pre­vent­ing and erad­i­cat­ing il­licit trade in con­ven­tional arms. Arms and am­mu­ni­tion trans­fer costs vastly ex­ceed the ini­tial fi­nan­cial prof­its of sell­ing weapons. The United Na­tions Peace­keep­ing costs the world $7 bil­lion per year and the global an­nual bur­den of armed vi­o­lence stands at $400 bil­lion. Tar­geted at ter­ror­ists, the treaty recog­nises the le­git­i­mate po­lit­i­cal, se­cu­rity, eco­nomic and com­mer­cial in­ter­ests of states, in­clud­ing sport­ing and recre­ational ac­tiv­i­ties. The treaty ex­pects all to re­spect Univer­sal Dec­la­ra­tion of Hu­man Rights and re­duce hu­man suf­fer­ing. Each state is ex­pected to reg­u­late arms trade. The Treaty shall ap­ply to all con­ven­tional arms in­clud­ing bat­tle tanks, ar­moured com­bat ve­hi­cles, large cal­i­bre ar­tillery, com­bat air­craft, at­tack helicopters, war­ships, mis­siles and mis­sile launch­ers, and small arms. There is no re­stric­tion of move­ment of arms for use by owner na­tion as is the case in in­ter­na­tional peace­keep­ing or en­force­ment op­er­a­tions in­clud­ing Iraq and Afghanistan.

There are re­stric­tions on trans­fer/sale also of parts and com­po­nents that can be as­sem­bled to make arms. Diver­sion of arms for use against civil­ians is also pro­hib­ited. The treaty pro­hibits states from trans­fer­ring con­ven­tional weapons if they vi­o­late arms em­bar­goes or if they pro­mote acts of geno­cide, crimes against hu­man­ity or war crimes. Each sig­na­tory coun­try is ex­pected to make national leg­is­la­tion on th­ese lines. The treaty will be ready for sig­na­tures by in­di­vid­ual states from June 3, 2013 on­wards. Mem­bers have the right to record reser­va­tions on in­di­vid­ual points with­out coun­ter­ing the ba­sic pur­pose of the treaty. The treaty will come into force when 50 coun­tries rat­ify it.

Many coun­tries, led by In­dia, which also ab­stained, felt that the treaty gives un­due lever­age to ex­port­ing over im­port­ing states. USA, the world’s big­gest arms ex­porter, drove the treaty against ma­jor op­po­si­tion from its pow­er­ful ‘National Ri­fle As­so­ci­a­tion’ which feels the do­mes­tic sales would get af­fected in spite govern­ment as­sur­ance to the con­trary. China and Rus­sia, two ma­jor arms ex­porters, who also arm some rouge states, are not part of the treaty yet. With such sig­nif­i­cant play­ers not keen to join it, the treaty’s ef­fec­tive­ness could be in ques­tion.

In­dia, the world’s largest im­porter of mil­i­tary equip­ment, is wor­ried that the treaty could com­pli­cate its ef­forts to im­port mil­i­tary equip­ment. Ap­pre­hen­sion is that arms ex­porters could use the treaty as a pre­text not to pro­vide equip­ment in case they fail to ful­fill con­di­tions of a con­tract. Al­though im­ple­men­ta­tion is years away and there is no spe­cific en­force­ment mech­a­nism, pro­po­nents say the treaty would for the first time force sell­ers to con­sider how their cus­tomers will use the weapons and to make that in­for­ma­tion pub­lic. In­ter­est­ingly the ma­jor thrust for de­fence in­di­geni­sa­tion in In­dia co­in­cided with the fi­nal­i­sa­tion of this treaty. In spite of years of ef­fort, the Nu­clear Non­Pro­lif­er­a­tion Treaty is yet to suc­ceed. Treaties for greater threats like global en­vi­ron­men­tal treaty have still to get ac­cep­tance. The US has uni­lat­er­ally run arms em­bar­goes in the past and also armed in­sur­gency move­ments in­clud­ing the Tal­iban. In spite of very good in­ten­tions, many feel the treaty will suc­ceed in the breach.

In­dia’s Ambassador Su­jata Me­hta, ar­gued in the UN Gen­eral Assem­bly that the treaty falls short on many counts and will not at­tract univer­sal ad­her­ence. In­dia stressed that the ATT should en­sure a bal­ance of obli­ga­tions be­tween ex­port­ing and im­port­ing states. The treaty was weak on ter­ror­ism and non-state ac­tors. Fur­ther, In­dia could not ac­cept the treaty as it could be used as an in­stru­ment in the hands of ex­port­ing states to take uni­lat­eral force ma­jeure mea­sures against im­port­ing states with­out con­se­quences. More­over, im­port­ing states were li­able to fairly in­tru­sive ques­tion­ing re­lat­ing to end use of the im­ported weapons. The treaty will not hin­der Pak­istan’s sup­ply of arms to ter­ror­ist out­fits within the coun­try. Me­hta high­lighted that there are no curbs on arms flow to re­li­gious ex­trem­ists. As a re­sult, even if the ATT is signed and rat­i­fied by the mem­bers of UNGA, it will not help con­trol the men­ace of re­li­gious ex­trem­ism and ter­ror­ism. Rus­sia and China too have suf­fered this men­ace. In­dia’s con­cerns have been put forth. Phys­i­cal po­si­tions will emerge in due course.

The knot­ted gun (non-vi­o­lence) sculp­ture by Swedish artist Carl Fredrik Reuter­swärd on

dis­play at the UN vis­i­tors’ plaza.

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