Moratorium on landmine mooted

Strategic circles discuss banning the use of antipersonnel mines along Indo-Pak boders, writes Srinand Jha.

india Updated: Oct 12, 2006 23:52 IST

Banning the use of antipersonnel mines along common borders between India and Pakistan is an idea that has cropped up in strategic circles, with suggestions being that a joint moratorium be discussed as part of the agenda in future peace talks between the two countries.

The toll of mine-blast deaths and injuries in the two countries has been heavy. According to a survey conducted by the Indian Institute of Peace, Disarmament and Environmental Protection (IIPDEP), 1295 civilian casualties (325 killed and 970 injured) were reported between December 2003 and March 2004 in the border states of Punjab, Rajasthan and Jammu and Kashmir.

According to government sources, there were 10,709 casualties (1489 killed and 9220 injured) in the decade from 1989 to 1999 in the two states of Jammu and Kashmir and Andhra Pradesh. Corresponding figures from Pakistan are unavailable.

India, Pakistan, United States and China are non-signatory members of the Mine Ban Treaty.

10,709 mine-blast casualties in India between 1989-99.

Non-State armed groups resorting to mine-related technologies include CPI (ML), MCC, ULFA, PLA and the ATTF.
7,328 new landmine casualties reported worldwide in 2005 - an 11% increase since the previous year.
New countries on list of landmine casualties include Afghanistan, Cambodia, Bangladesh, Algeria, Yemen, Thailand and Philippines.

Satnam Jit Singh, diplomatic advisor to the International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL)—a network of 1400 groups in 90 countries—said that countries not signing the Mine Ban Treaty (The Ottawa Convention) were apparently at conflict with the overwhelming international opinion on the issue. The ICBL, incidentally, was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for its work in 1997.

India—alongwith the United States, China, Russia and Pakistan—are not signatories to the Ottawa Convention. Supporting the Indian Government's position, Director of the Centre for Land Warfare Studies Lt General Vijay Oberoi (Retd) said that all agreements had to be universally acceptable for them to become effective.

Given the fact that non-state armed groups are increasingly resorting to Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs), the Government's reluctance in the matter is understandable, he added.

Views of Institute of Defence Studies and Analyses (IDSA) executive council member Lt Gen BS Malik (Retd) are at variance. "A bilateral agreement with Pakistan on the issue will narrow down the trust and information deficit that presently exists and will help save innocent lives", he said.

Talks in official circles have centered on the idea of a change in the defence doctrine for ensuring the use of alternative technologies such as "self-de-activating mines" which become dysfunctional after a limited period.

However, according to Sudheer Bhatnagar of the Society for All Round Development (SARD)—one of the ICBL's partner organisations—such alternatives are expensive and impractical.

First Published: Oct 12, 2006 23:37 IST