Govt will not sign Ottawa treaty (India)
New Delhi, April 26: The Centre is reluctant to sign the Ottawa treaty which prohibits the use of anti-personnel mines by its defence forces. Even with pressure from the anti-mines lobby building on the Centre, the government has decided against signing the treaty, citing the "long and porous border India shares with its neighbours" as its primary reservation.
Endorsing the Centre's stand, experts agree that "India cannot foreclose its options at this stage", stating that India continues to be in a "chronic and constant state of warfare with Pakistan".
India's equation vis-à-vis China and growing concerns at the Indo-Bangladesh border are forcing India to preserve its right to use mines if a state of warfare arises, feel experts. India today stands next to Pakistan, China, the US and Russia who have not signed the treaty citing their own reasons.
"We are in a constant and chronic state of warfare against Pakistan. We have significant problems with China and even the equation with Bangladesh is unstable," Dr Ajay Sahni, director of the Centre for Conflict Management, told this newspaper. Dr Sahni said that India's position today cannot be compared to that of the UK, Europe or Australia since these countries don't require the right to use mines since they are not placed in a similar situation. By not being part of the treaty, India is only reserving its right to use mines, he said.
The Indian Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL) recently drew the Centre's attention to the increasing concerns about the use of mines by defence forces, terming it a "humanitarian crisis", citing casualties during Operation Parakram of 2003 where nearly 400 casualties were sustained by army personnel and similar casualties were reported elsewhere in the following years.
Environmental experts are also citing the adverse impact of mines on agriculture, productive land as also animals.
The Union home ministry has clarified that security forces in the country are not using mines for "maintenance of law and order" as well as "internal security" situations, or even for "combating terrorists" and terrorist organisations, including those that have indiscriminately used improvised explosive devices and mines.
"The forces, engaged in counter-insurgency operations or anti-Naxalite operations, do not use mines at all," said a senior MHA official.
Von: 26.4.2008, howrah.org, by Namrata Biji Ahuja