India has vowed to work towards steady progress in the areas of conventional disarmament as small arms and light weapons directly affect a large mass of people in conventional conflicts.
If the entire spectrum of weaponry that is the focus of disarmament and arms control measures was to be placed within a pyramid, it would have a three-tiered structure, Indian delegate Anil Basu said in a UN General Assembly committee debate on Tuesday.
"Nuclear weapons, our foremost priority, will constitute the top of the pyramid, followed by chemical and biological weapons at the middle layer. But the broadest part of the pyramid will be made up by conventional weapons and small arms and light weapons," he noted.
While it is vital to address the apex of the pyramid, its base constitutes a larger, more contingent concern, affecting directly a large mass of people afflicted by conventional conflict, Basu said.
As India's approach to disarmament and international security is guided by a strong commitment to international humanitarian law, it hoped to have a positive and forward-looking outcome of the Review Conference on Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW) in Geneva next month.
India is among 20 state parties that adhere to the entire CCW package. It also favours strengthening the convention through a compliance mechanism.
Unregulated and illicit trade in conventional weapons, small arms and light weapons are continuing to have devastating consequences, Basu said. The direct costs include death, injury and trauma and the cost of caring for the wounded and disabled, not to speak of the destruction of the civilian infrastructure.
The indirect costs include displacement, destitution and prolonged underdevelopment. The proliferation of illicit trade in small arms and light weapons gravely endangers the security of states, disrupts their social harmony and hampers growth and development.
The ready availability of illicit weapons foster organised crime, drug trafficking and illegal exploitation of natural resources. It promotes sectarian violence, insurgency and terrorism, he said.
India is, therefore, strongly committed to the full and effective implementation of the UN Programme of Action on Preventing, Combating and Eradicating Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons.
"It is a good augury that we now have an international instrument containing vital commitment by UN member states to mark all small arms and light weapons according to universal standards and cooperate with each other in tracing illicit ones," Basu said.
Hoping for similar cooperative action in other related areas concerning small arms, including on brokering and the prohibition of transfer of weapons to non-state actors, including terrorists, he said India has a forward-looking approach.
"We believe that, even on the contentious issues, a balanced approach could accommodate national security imperatives, humanitarian requirements, financial costs and technological constraints, Basu said.
India also favours strengthened cooperation in mine clearance, including unrestricted transfer of mine clearance technology, equipment and training; risk education; rehabilitation; victim assistance and socio-economic betterment of mine-affected communities.
"In the field of conventional disarmament, we believe that an enhanced level of transparency will contribute greatly to confidence building and security amongst states," he said.