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UN adopts global arms trade treaty, India abstains

April 02, 2013 23:22 IST

The UN General Assembly has overwhelmingly approved the first ever arms treaty regulating the $70 billion global arms trade, even as India abstained saying that the draft was "weak" on terrorism and non-state actors.

The resolution got 154 votes in favour while three nations voted against it in the 193-member General Assembly.

There were 23 abstentions, including that of India.

Iran, North Korea and Syria had blocked the adoption of the treaty saying it failed to ban sales of weapons to groups that commit "acts of aggression". The three countries voted against the resolution on Tuesday.

Giving India's explanation of vote on the resolution, Permanent Representative to the Conference of Disarmament in Geneva, Ambassador Sujata Mehta, said the draft treaty text fell short of India's expectations and those of a number of other key stakeholders in producing a text that is clear, balanced and implementable and is able to attract universal adherence.

"From the beginning of the ATT (Arms Trade Treaty) process, India has maintained that such a treaty should make a real impact on illicit trafficking in conventional arms and their illicit use especially by terrorists and other unauthorised and unlawful non-state actors," Mehta said.

"However, the draft treaty that is annexed to the resolution is weak on terrorism and non-state actors and these concerns find no mention in the specific prohibitions of the Treaty," she said.

Mehta said the Indian government would undertake a full and thorough assessment of the ATT from the perspective of its defence, security and foreign policy interests.

"At this stage we are not in a position to endorse the text...Therefore, India has abstained on the resolution," Mehta said.

The vote came after the General Assembly members failed to reach a consensus last week on adopting the text of the first international treaty on arms trade.

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

Mehta said, India, which has been an active participant in the ATT negotiations, 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.

"The relevant provisions in the final text do not meet our requirements," Mehta said.

"Underlying our participation in these extended negotiations 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," she said.

"This is consistent with the strong and effective national export controls that India already has in place with respect to export of defence items," Mehta added.

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