India Silent As United Nations' Arms Trade Treaty Comes Into Force

By Arming India Correspondent

UNITED NATIONS: A landmark comprehensive international treaty that controls the $85 billion annual global arms sales came into force on Dec. 24, 2014. The treaty is aimed at ensuring deadly weapons don't land in wrong hands such as terrorists and human rights violators.

But, the treaty, adopted by the United Nations in April 2013, hasn't incorporated India's concerns over supplies to non-state actors and terror groups, apart safeguards from the arm-twisting by exporting nations against their buyers.

India, the world's largest arms importer since 2010 according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), has not yet signed the treaty, along with Russia, China and Pakistan. The US, the world's largest arms exporter, has signed the treaty in September 2013, but its Senate is yet to ratify it. Other top arms exporters that have signed and ratified it include Britain, France and Germany.

The US had surpassed Russia as India's top supplier of defense equipment in the three years to March 2014 notching up sales over $5 billion during the period, according to figures submitted to parliament in August 2014.

On April 2, 2013, when the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) adopted the Arms Trade Treaty, India had abstained, in league with Russia, China and 20 other nations. Of the 193 member-states in the UNGA, 154 had voted in favour of the treaty, while three voted against.

The day the treaty came into force, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in a statement that the treaty "marks the opening of a new chapter in our collective efforts to bring responsibility, accountability, and transparency to the global arms trade.

"Ultimately, it attests to our collective determination to reduce human suffering by preventing the transfer or diversion of weapons to areas afflicted by armed conflict and violence and to warlords, human rights abusers, terrorists and criminal organisations," Ban said, calling all countries, "particularly major arms exporters and importers," to join the agreement "without delay."

From now on, "the States Parties to this important treaty will have a legal obligation to apply the highest common standards to their international transfers of weapons and ammunition," Ban said.

A text message to Indian Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson for a comment on the treaty coming into force did not elicit any response.

Till the day the treaty came into force, only 60 of the signatory nations had ratified the treaty, while 130 had signed it, which indicated they would ratify it.

Terming the Arms Trade Treaty a breakthrough in curbing human rights violations and reducing human suffering, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein said the treaty established the highest possible common international standards for regulating the trade in conventional arms.

While abstaining from voting on the treaty on April 2, 2013, India had said the draft treaty annexed to the resolution was “weak on terrorism and non-state actors” and these concerns find no mention in the specific prohibitions of the treaty.

Following the adoption of the treaty last year, India's Permanent Representative to the Conference of Disarmament in Geneva Sujata Mehta had said that from the beginning of the Arms Trade Treaty process, India maintained that such a treaty should make a real impact on illicit trafficking in conventional arms and their illicit use especially by terrorists and other unauthorized and unlawful non-State actors.

India has also stressed consistently that the treaty should ensure a balance of obligations between exporting and importing states.

Mehta had said that India cannot accept that the treaty be used as an instrument in the hands of exporting states to take "unilateral force majeure measures" against importing states parties without consequences. "The relevant provisions in the final text do not meet our requirements," he added.

Meanwhile, an unnamed UN human rights expert was quoted as saying that while the treaty was a very important step to peace and security, numerous ambiguities remain in the text that could end up supporting the arms industry.



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