India remains an active producer of anti-personnel landmines and maintains a stockpile of at least four million of this lethal and indiscriminate weapon, a new international report says.
Although there has been no reported use by the military of landmines in the last year, many remain in Indian soil from past conflicts, the Landmine Monitor Report 2007 says.
"In this past year alone, there have been an estimated 107 casualties of landmines and other explosive remnants of war in India," it says.
India, along with Russia, China and Pakistan, remains one of the largest producers, even if not an active user, of antipersonnel landmines in the world, according to the report.
Internationally, only 13 countries produce anti-personnel mines, many of which are taking measures to reduce their production. With the fifth largest stockpile in the world, India "is far from becoming a mine free nation", the report says.
Along with the anti-personnel mines used in the past for border protection and in the conflict endangered zones, there has been a rise in the use of improvised explosive devices (IEDs), especially by non-state armed actors in states like Jammu and Kashmir and the Maoist-affected districts of the country.
"IEDs provide a cheap and easy alternative to traditional landmines and small arms. They have become more and more common in many of the insurgency-afflicted regions of the nation," the report said, adding it had identified 524 casualties of explosive devices in 2006.
According to Binalakshmi Nepram, secretary general of think tank Control Arms Foundation of India (CAFI) and a researcher for the Landmine Monitor, "Indian civil society and the government cannot afford to remain ignorant of the huge humanitarian and development impact of rising landmines and IED emergency which is emerging in the country."
Globally, the international campaign to ban landmines is celebrating the 10th anniversary of the Mine Ban Treaty (MBT), with 156 nations banning the use, production, stockpile and trade of landmines.
India is yet to join this treaty. Recently, an Indian government delegation attended the 8th Meeting of States Parties in Amman, Jordan, as an observer, "but reiterated its intention not to sign the treaty in the near future", a CAFI release said.
"While the Indian government is fully sensitised to humanitarian aspects of the landmine problem, there is a compelling need to address the issue comprehensively," said retired ambassador Satnam Jit Singh, diplomatic advisor to the International Campaign to Ban Landmines.
"Landmines do not ensure security of any nation, they only spawn human misery," he maintained, adding: "If over 80 percent members of the international community can ensure security of their borders without using anti-personnel mines, surely India too can.
"There is no need to have another weapon system to replace landmines. What is needed is a change in mindset and a change in defence doctrine," Singh said.
The annual Landmine Monitor Report was begun in 1998 by the International Campaign to Ban Landmines to monitor and report on implementation of and compliance with the Mine Ban Treaty.