Text size:

  • Small
  • Normal
  • Large

Sign up to landmine treaty, rivals told

As the enforcement of the UN ban on landmines marked its 10 year anniversary this month, activists are calling on India and Pakistan to sign and ratify the convention.

SRINAGAR, INDIA // As the enforcement of the UN ban on landmines marked its 10 year anniversary this month, activists are calling on India and Pakistan to sign and ratify the convention on the weapons that cause hundreds of deaths and injuries every year. In January, peace activists and members of Kashmiri civil society groups marched through the streets of Srinagar to demand the South Asian neighbours sign up to the Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines and on their Destruction, also known as the Mine Ban Treaty.

The demonstration, organised by ActionAid, an international humanitarian and development agency, came in response to several reports of civilians falling victim to landmines and cluster munitions in different parts of the region. And just this month, at least three civilians, including a 14-year-old boy, as well as an Indian soldier, lost limbs after coming into contact with anti-personnel mines close to Line of Control, the de facto border that divides the Indian- and Pakistani-controlled parts of Kashmir

On Wednesday, a devastating fire was triggered by a landmine explosion close to an Indian military base at Balakote in the Mendhar area in Kashmir. According to a forest department official, Nazir Ahmed, the fire, which is still raging, has already consumed hundreds of trees and other flora and fauna spread over an area of one kilometre. Among the front-runners of the campaign seeking a ban on landmines in the Indian subcontinent is the Kashmiri human rights activist Khurram Parvez, who himself lost a leg in 2004 in an explosion that killed two others.

"It is a failed and rogue weapon which keeps claiming lives even after you make peace with the enemy," said Mr Parvez, 32. In Oct 2007, Mr Parvez, as a member of the Kashmir branch of the International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL), travelled to Pakistan to meet key players in the Kashmiri insurgency to plead for a ban on the use of antipersonnel mines, including leading militant Syed Salahuddin.

At the end of a three-week mission, the militants acknowledged the use of antipersonnel mines is "equivalent to blind terror" and pledged not to use them in the future. Sylvie Brigot, executive director of ICBL, termed the promise as "yet another sign of the growing acceptance of the norm which prohibits antipersonnel mines because of their indiscriminate nature". But militants and various non-state armed groups active in Kashmir are increasingly resorting to the indiscriminate use of Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) and other command-detonated devices to target convoys of Indian soldiers and paramilitaries, but which also cause civilian casualties.

On March 6, two IEDs weighing eight and 10 kilograms planted along roadsides in two different locations in Kupwara were defused by the Jammu and Kashmir police bomb disposal squad. The IEDs, wrapped in polythene bags, were apparently meant for Indian troop convoys which pass through every day, officials said. A key characteristic of antipersonnel mines, first used on a wide scale in the Second World War, is that they are designed to maim rather than kill enemy soldiers as more resources are taken up caring for an injured soldier than dealing with a dead soldier. The weapon is customarily used to protect strategic areas.

Militant groups use mines chiefly to target the security forces but the number of civilian casualties has spiked in recent years, both in Kashmir and elsewhere in north-eastern India, though these are also the result of the many antipersonnel mines that were laid in the past by Pakistan and India during hostilities between the two countries. "There is an urgent need for the comprehensive clearance of mines already in the ground in our state," Mr Parvez said.

Though India has declined to reveal the number of its stockpile of antipersonnel mines - the great majority of which are believed to be Indian-manufactured M14 mines - it is estimated to be between four and five million, making it the fifth largest stockpile in the world, according to Landmine Monitor, the de facto monitoring regime for the Mine Ban Treaty. In 2007, Landmine Monitor identified at least 170 new casualties of victim-activated explosive devices, with 41 killed and 129 injured, 89 of whom were civilians and 81 military.

India claims it needs landmines to secure its long, porous borders, but analysts are sceptical. "More civilians and Indian military than enemy forces are killed and maimed by landmines, including children and women" said Anuradha Chenoy, professor at the School of International Studies at New Delhi's Jawaharlal Nehru University. Retired ambassador Satnam Jit Singh, now the diplomatic adviser to the International Campaign to Ban Landmine, said: "There is no need to wait for alternatives for India to sign the Mine Ban Treaty. Non-explosive viable alternatives, which do not keep harming innocent lives long after an armed conflict is over, already exist with all armies".

Islamabad, too, while expressing support for the goal of eventual elimination of antipersonnel mines, says mines are essential to its national security at this time. In 2006 there were at least 488 new casualties from mines, with 203 killed and 285 injured. yjameel@thenational.ae

Back to the top

More articles


Editor's Picks

 Iranian President Hassan Rouhani greets supporters after his arrival in Zahedan, the regional capital of Sistan and Baluchestan province on Tuesday, April 15, 2014. During Mr Rouhani's two-day visit, he will tour several other cities and hold meetings with local scholars and entrepreneurs. Maryam Rahmanian for The National

On the road with Hassan Rouhani

Iran's president is touring some of Iran's most underdeveloped provinces. Foreign correspondent Yeganeh Salehi is traveling with him.

 The Doha-based Youssef Al Qaradawi speaks to the crowd as he leads Friday prayers in Tahrir Square in Cairo, Egypt in February, 2011. The outspoken pro-Muslim Brotherhood imam has been critical of the UAE’s policies toward Islamist groups, adding to friction between Qatar and other GCC states. Khalil Hamra / AP Photo

Brotherhood imam skips Doha sermon, but more needed for GCC to reconcile

That Youssef Al Qaradawi did not speak raises hopes that the spat involving Qatar and the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain might be slowly moving towards a resolution.

 Twitter photo of  Abdel Fattah El Sisi on the campaign trail on March 30. Photo courtesy-Twitter/@SisiCampaign

El Sisi rides a bicycle, kicks off social media storm

The photos and video created a huge buzz across social media networks, possibly a marker of a new era for Egypt.

 An Afghan election commission worker carries a ballot box at a vote counting centre in Jalalabad on April 6. A roadside bomb hit a truck carrying full ballot boxes in northern Afghanistan, killing three people a day after the country voted for a successor to President Hamid Karzai. Eight boxes of votes were destroyed in the blast, which came as the three leading candidates voiced concerns about possible fraud. Noorullah Shirzada / AFP Photo

Two pressing questions for Afghanistan’s future president

Once in office, the next Afghan president must move fast to address important questions that will decide the immediate future of the country.

 Friday is UN Mine Awareness Day and Omer Hassan, who does demining work in Iraqi Kurdistan, is doing all he can to teach people about the dangers posed by landmines. Louise Redvers for The National

A landmine nearly ended Omer’s life but he now works to end the threat of mines in Iraq

Omer Hassan does demining work in Iraqi Kurdistan and only has to show people his mangled leg to underscore the danger of mines. With the world marking UN Mine Awareness Day on Friday, his work is as important as ever as Iraq is one of the most mine-affected countries in the world.

 Supporters of Turkey's ruling AKP cheer as they follow the election's results in front of the party's headquarters in Ankara on March 30. Adem Altan/ AFP Photo

Erdogan critic fears retaliation if he returns to Turkey

Emre Uslu is a staunch critic of Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Now, with a mass crackdown on opposition expected, he is unsure when he can return home.

Events

To add your event to The National listings, click here

Get the most from The National