India abstains from UN vote on global arms trade treaty

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United Nations, April 2 (IANS) As the UN General Assembly Tuesday overwhelmingly approved the first UN treaty regulating the multi-billion dollar international arms trade, India abstained from the resolution, stressing its strong protest over the draft which it described as an instrument in the hands of weapons exporting countries.

The resolution adopting the treaty was approved by a vote of 154 to 3 with 23 abstentions in the 193-member world body. Iran, North Korea and Syria had blocked adoption of the draft by consensus at the end of a two-week final negotiating conference last Thursday. The three countries voted "no" on Tuesday's resolution while Russia and China, both major arms exporters, also abstained.

Ambassador Sujata Mehta, India's Permanent Representative to the Conference of Disarmament in Geneva, reiterating India's criticism of the text, said the draft treaty text sought to be adopted through this resolution "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".

She said that India has always 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 unauthorized and unlawful non-State actors".

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

She said the draft treaty is "weak on terrorism and non-state actors and these concerns find no mention in the specific prohibitions of the Treaty".

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

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

"At this stage we are not in a position to endorse the text contained as annexure to document A/67/L.58. Therefore, India has abstained on the resolution. I would request that this statement be reflected in full in the records of this Session," Mehta said.