Final draft of global arms trade treaty flawed, says India

United Nations, March 29 (IANS) India has criticized the final draft of the global Arms Trade Treaty at the UN, saying it falls short of its expectations and there is a “fundamental imbalance in the text which is flawed” and tilted against weapons-importing countries.

Addressing the closing plenary of the UN Conference on ATT Thursday, Ambassador Sujata Mehta said that “in the view of the Indian delegation, the final draft falls short of our expectations and a number of other key stakeholders in producing a text that is clear, balanced and implementable and able to attract universal adherence”.

India had made it clear that the global arms trade treaty should make a “real impact on illicit trafficking in conventional arms and their illicit use especially by terrorists and other unauthorized and unlawful non-state actors”, said Mehta, India’s permanent representative to the Conference on Disarmament, Geneva.

But the provisions in the final draft on terrorism and non-state actors “are weak and diffused and find no mention in the specific prohibitions of the treaty”.

India has stressed consistently that the ATT should “ensure a balance of obligations between exporting and importing states”.

Mehta stressed that “India cannot accept that the treaty be used as an instrument in the hands of exporting states to take unilateral force majeure measures against importing states parties without consequences”, said an official statement Friday.

She also said that the relevant provisions in the final draft do not meet India’s requirements.

“There is a fundamental imbalance in the text which is flawed as the weight of obligations is tilted against importing states.”

India as an importing state “will take measures to ensure that the treaty does not affect the stability and predictability of defence cooperation agreements and contracts entered into by India,” said Mehta.

She said India has been an active participant in ATT negotiations and underlying the participation was the principle that member states “have a legitimate right to self-defence and our belief that there is no conflict between the pursuit of national security objectives and the aspiration that the Arms Trade Treaty be strong, balanced and effective”.

“This is consistent with the strong and effective national export controls that India already has in place with respect to export of defence items”.

She said that “while India has negotiated in good faith and in an open and transparent manner with respect to our essential interests, the final draft has the tell tale marks of behind- the- scenes carve outs of exclusive interests of a select few countries, such as egregiously excluding non-state actors or arms transfers as gifts or loans, thus seriously diminishing the value of a multilateral Treaty negotiated in the UN”.

India has stressed that universal adherence to this treaty “would not be possible unless all stakeholders were on board and this includes major exporting as well as importing states”.

India is to undertake a thorough assessment of the ATT “from the perspective of our defence, security and foreign policy interests”.

She also stressed that the delegation’s participation in the session “does not in any way prejudice our position on the substantive aspects of the Treaty and should not be construed in any way as our endorsement”.

Mehta said the Indian team has taken the position “that there is no common understanding of the word consensus”.

“For my delegation, the implications of the statement are very grave. My delegation is constrained to place on record that this characterisation of consensus is incorrect and the principle of consensus is well understood and operated within the UN and in disarmament negotiations in the UN. We continue to abide by it and respect it.”

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