Primary purpose should be ensuring national implementation

Sandwiched between the outlying positions taken by Pakistan, at one extreme, and the European Union (EU), at the other, India is attempting to chart a middle course on a path-breaking treaty on arms trade which will enter the home stretch of negotiations at the United Nations next week.

While Pakistan wants only light weapons covered by the treaty, the EU is pressing for what are known as the seven-plus-one criteria, meaning light weapons-plus seven categories of heavy military hardware such as tanks, attack helicopters, missiles and combat aircraft. India — whose position is quite similar to that taken by the 10-member ASEAN, the U.S. and Russia and even China to a large extent — wants a practical treaty whose primary purpose should be ensuring national implementation because some of the criteria such as poverty, human suffering and impact on social stability are very subjective. This position will leave many civil society organisations unhappy, say official sources.

‘Involve exporters, importers’

“It is essential for the major exporters, importers as well as the ones doing both to be involved so that a modern, realistic, implementable and practical treaty is negotiated. It is difficult to predict the outcome. We don’t want a treaty which is very ambitious which might make it unimplementable,” said the sources here about the ongoing U.N. Conference on the Arms Trade Treaty.

India hopes for a treaty that will address three criteria — the outcome should be consensus-based for a realistic treaty, it should reduce or eliminate illicit trafficking in and diversion of arms to terrorists and non-state armed groups and, last, strike a balance between the obligations of exporters and importers.

The treaty aims to fill the void of an international framework to govern arms transfers but for a voluntary U.N. register on conventional arms on the transparency side.

While there was not much movement during the Bush Administration, the idea gained traction during Barak Obama’s Presidency. In 2010, it was decided to hold an open-ended conference culminating in July 2012. But due to the complexity of issues, the last preparatory conference in New York in February this year could not arrive at a broad consensus. Since dates for the meet to decide on the treaty were set — from July 2 to 22 — all countries have nevertheless gone for the final meeting

India is buoyed by the U.N. General Assembly’s decision to adopt the text of the treaty by consensus because it believes that all major stakeholders will be on board. The treaty would then carry weight unlike the Ottawa (Anti-personnel Mine Ban Convention) and Oslo (Convention on Cluster Munitions) pacts that have seen little progress mainly because 20 major countries stayed away.

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