Arms Trade treaty is an old topic (2012) but resurfaced in news again, because some countries ratified this treaty in April-2014.
Q. Discuss the salient features of Arms Trade treaty and India’s stand on it (200 words)

Features of Arms Trade Treaty (ATT):

  • Aims to prevent diversion of arms for crimes and genocides.
  • By curbing illicit trade of conventional firearms, tanks, artillery, attack helicopters, warships, missiles and ammunitions.
  • Puts obligations on both importing and exporting country.
  • Importers have to provide detail about usage of arms purchased, and assure the exporting country about compliance with this treaty.
  • Exporting nation prevent arms transfer, if they suspect possible usage in genocides or crimes against humanity.
  • Mechanism for information sharing among member states to prevent diversion of the arms.

India’s stand on ATT

India abstained from voting on this UN treaty, because:

  1. Treaty speaks about crime and genocide but does not boldly underline the diversion of weapons to terrorist and non-state actors. In past, USA and its allies have armed of rebels in Nicaragua, Syria, Libya, even, Al-Qaeda in Afghanistan.
  2. Treaty is biased: puts higher responsibility on importer country than exporter.
  3. Exporting nation can stop arms-ammunition supply, citing reason of poor compliance with the treaty. This is open to misuse- during diplomatic rifts such as Devyani case.
  4. IAEA and OPCW have mechanism to check compliance. But such strong verification mechanism is absent in ATT.
  5. Does not explicitly cover drones and grenades.

India always favored disarmament and regulations over international trade of weapons. But ATT is neither inclusive nor balanced in nature. Therefore, India has abstained.
~230 words.

Side notes:

Some Disturbing numbers:

  • More than 12 billion bullets manufactured each year (more than enough to kill every human on earth- total h uman population is ~7 billion.)
  • Almost 30 million people have to flee their homes each year, because of the armed conflicts in third world
  • 60% of the human rights violations involve use of small arms
  • 75% of World’s weapons are supplied by just six countries: P5 + Germany

Signing vs Ratification

Every treaty / convention has two stages:

  • Passing/Signing the treaty (in United nations). This ATT treaty is already passed in UN.
  • Ratifying the treaty (in your country’s parliament). This ATT treaty will come into force if atleast 50 countries ratified it.
Stage #1: Passing in UN
YES >150 voted yes= so treaty is passed.
NO Iran, Syria and North Korea (as the common sense suggests!)
  • India, China, Russia, Egypt, Myanmar, Saudi Arabia and Sri Lanka abstained.
  • India is among the top-importers so it is understandable we don’t like it
  • but even China and Russia (top exporters) they also don’t like it.
  • Means thorough revision of ATT necessary.

Stage #2: Ratifying @Parliament

  • ATT will come into force once 50 countries ratify it
  • Meaning you put this treaty on the table of your parliament, when majority of the MP vote “YES”, then you send a file back to UN office=> that means xyz treaty is both SIGNED and ratified by our country.
  • As of April 2014 (week1), total 18 countries have ratified this treaty.
5 out of top-10 arms exporters chillar parties
  1. Britain
  2. France
  3. Germany
  4. Italy
  5. Spain
  1. Bulgaria
  2. Croatia
  3. Denmark
  4. El Salvador
  5. Estonia
  6. Finland
  7. Hungary
  8. Ireland
  9. Latvia
  10. Malta
  11. Romania
  12. Slovakia
  13. Slovenia

In USA- this ATT treaty yet to be ratified. Many senators oppose it. Why?

  • American Gun Companies don’t like this treaty (after all, they make truckload of cash exporting weapons to rebels and mass-murderers in Africa)
  • (So, as the common sense suggests), they’d have paid suitcases to Senators, to oppose this ratification in US Congress.

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