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General against landmines

General Maurice Baril has spent four years waging battle against an unusual enemy: the anti-personnel mine.

india Updated: Mar 28, 2006 03:59 IST

General Maurice Baril has spent four years waging battle against an unusual enemy: the anti-personnel mine. The Canadian ex-army chief was recently in New Delhi to promote the Ottawa Convention banning anti-personnel mines.

The convention targets this specific mine because it is "activated by the victim." Claymores or improvised explosive devices are not covered. Baril explains why he told his government it could drop the mine from its arsenal. "We can do better. It is a weapon that does not do what we want to do with it." Worse, "Mother Nature has habit of messing up your minefields" and this means the death and maiming of innocents, even after the original war is over.

When it comes to the three military purposes of such mines - "delay, protection and warning" - Baril argues there are better alternative thanks to advances in tactics and technology. He stresses that each nation must decide what are it's national security requirements. But 149 countries have now signed the Ottawa Convention. "India already has a ban against selling such mines. And it makes them with metal so they can be detected," Baril says. "India doesn't even use them against insurgents. It is too easy for insurgents to pick them up at night and use them against you."

Many armymen still say, "We have it. Why take a chance of giving it away?" The general tours the world urging fellow officers to at least think it over. Baril did that nine years ago, concluded "it was worth the risk" and has been a convert to the cause ever since.