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Updated: March 30, 2013 13:12 IST

India up in arms against ‘imbalance’ in ATT draft

Sandeep Dikshit
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India may ask western countries to “look for new customers” for their defence equipment as it feels they were instrumental in loading the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) against importers. The Treaty will come up for voting at the U.N. on April 2.

India feels let down by the West but welcomed assurances by France and Russia of keeping the ATT out in all future defence contracts.

As the largest arms importer in the world, India is concerned about the “imbalance” in the ATT’s final draft. While it allows exporters to unilaterally cancel contracts, a provision to safeguard the interests of importers was quietly dropped.

“We had discussed and agreed on incorporating a particular formulation with our main partners. But in the final draft, the reference to ‘contracts’ has been deleted. This lessened the assurance of predictability and stability in defence relations India was looking for in the Treaty,” said sources.

“India has not endorsed the treaty text. The government will take a position after a thorough review. The value of a treaty that does not ensure universal adherence would be obviously questionable,” warned the sources, fearing that the decision to ram through the ATT by a vote would mean it will go the same way as the Oslo Accord on cluster munitions did.

The ATT aims at regulating $ 70 billion worth of annual trade in arms. It is expected to be a more effective instrument than the voluntary U.N. register for conventional arms.

Backed by several countries, Kenya asked the Secretary-General for a vote after North Korea, Iran and Syria opposed the final draft because there were no provisions to prevent the flow of arms to terrorists and non-state actors. India sympathises with the stand taken by the three countries and is perturbed that this aspect was also dropped from the final draft.

The third area where Indian views and the text of the final draft do not coincide is the exclusion of gifts and loans from the purview of the Treaty. Sources said this was because of a deal cut between China and the European Union early on in the negotiations.

This was the second shot at passing the ATT by consensus. Last June, the U.S. had played spoilsport and two weeks of discussions had folded up without a consensus. This time, ironically, opposition came from countries that the U.S. considers to be the bad boys of the global order.

Government sources also wanted the NGOs to introspect whether they wished to back a treaty that will “further strengthen a handful of exporters against the rest.”

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