India rejects final draft of Arms Trade Treaty

Govt feels it lacks predictability, stability
Last Updated 29 March 2013, 20:59 IST

India has rejected the final draft of the Arms Trade Treaty, alleging that it contained “telltale marks of behind-the-scene carve outs of exclusive interests of a select few” and would not protect “stability and predictability” of defence cooperation agreements and contracts between the countries.

New Delhi is also upset as the final draft contained no strong provision to stop transfer of conventional arms to “terrorists and other unauthorised and unlawful non-state actors”, ostensibly because the United States, the United Kingdom and a few others are keen to keep open the options of supplying weapons to rebels in situations like the one prevailing in Syria or the one that Libya witnessed in 2011.

The United Nations Conference on Arms Trade Treaty concluded late on Thursday without formally adopting the draft, as Iran, Syria and North Korea blocked consensus on it. India, too, rejected it, stating that its text was flawed and had fundamental imbalances with the weight of obligations being tilted against importing States.

India, according to Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, received 10 per cent of all international arms transfer between 2007 and 11 and is likely to remain the largest recipient of major conventional weapons in the coming years too.

As the move to get the treaty adopted by consensus at the UNCATT failed, the US and the UK are now understood to be supporting an initiative led by Kenya to send it to the United Nations General Assembly and put it to vote for approval as early as on Tuesday.

India, however, is understood to be unhappy, as an initiative to adopt the treaty by consensus at the UNCATT is now being replaced by an “inherently divisive” process at the UNGA.

In its final statement to the UNCATT, India stressed that universal adherence to the treaty would not be possible, unless all stakeholders, including major exporting and importing states, were on board.

New Delhi is understood to be confident that even if the ATT was formally adopted by the UNGA, India’s existing or future defence agreements with any other country would not be affected.

“As an importing State, we will take measures to ensure that the treaty does not affect the stability and predictability of defence cooperation agreements and contracts entered into by India,” New Delhi’s envoy Sujata Mehta said at the closing plenary of the UNCATT.

New Delhi is also upset as Beijing apparently “got a free ride” in the negotiation over the ATT, with the US, UK and a few others conceded to China’s demand that the treaty should not cover arms transfers dressed up as “gift or loan”.

While Pakistan has been a small player at the UNCATT, a source in New Delhi on Friday argued that the countries that benefited from the absence of an international legal regime against transfer of weapons would draw comfort from the fact the new draft did not include tough provision to prohibit supply of conventional weapons to terrorists.

Ever since the negotiations for the multilateral agreement to regulate the $ 70 billion global arms trade commenced at the UNCATT, India insisted that the treaty should make a real impact on illicit trafficking in conventional arms and their illicit use especially by terrorists and other unauthorised and unlawful non-state actors.

(Published 29 March 2013, 20:12 IST)

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