India denounces arms suppliers to terrorists; Pakistan blames demand from ‘unresolved conflicts’

By Arul Louis,

United Nations : India has hit out against countries that as a “deliberate policy” arm terrorists and called for stricter international action against suppliers to curb the illicit trade in small weapons.

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Speaking Wednesday at a Security Council debate on illicit small arms trade, Permanent Representative Asoke K. Mukerji said, “The easy availability of such weapons in large numbers and the easy access often provided by some states as deliberate policy has been one of the main reasons for the growth of terrorism.”

Asserting that “India has been a victim of cross border terrorism for decades,” Mukherji said, “The focus for international cooperation should continue to be on the supply side of the equation.”

Pakistan’s Permanent Representative Maleeha Lodhi took an opposing position. Turning the focus away from the problem of suppliers, she insisted that it was a “demand” issue arising from “unresolved conflicts.”

The international mechanisms against small weapons trade “primarily focus on regulating the ‘supply’ side of these arms,” Lodhi said. “There is urgent need to evolve mechanisms and mobilize the political will to address the ‘demand’ side. That means dealing with unresolved disputes, the root causes of conflicts, breeding grounds of terrorism and the factors behind the rise in organized crime.”

With India being one of the biggest contributors of troops to UN operations, Mukerji made a special mention of dangers faced by them. “Of late, we note with concern the use of such weapons against UN peacekeepers by armed groups and terrorists,” he said.

While the use of bombs by terrorists and the risks of weapons of mass destruction falling into their hands make the headlines, small arms and light weapons wreak a heavier toll. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said that the widespread availability of these weapons was an important factor in the more than the 250 conflicts in the last decade that lead to more than 50,000 people killed each year.

Mukerji referred to the various legal measures like the 2001 UN Programme of Action on small and light weapons, the Arms Trade Treaty, the General Assembly resolutions and the Security Council sanctions on terrorist groups and urged enforcing them against those illegally trafficking in arms.

Among the speakers was the leader of a Côte d’Ivoire group battling the spread of small weapons, Karamoko Diakité, who had personal experience of its dangers. After political leaders there had given out illegally obtained small arms and weapons after an election dispute, “We were terrorized for days, hunted like animals, without food, without water, without receiving help, constantly living in fear of being killed,” he said.

Tracing the flow of weapons, he said that after the fall of Muammar Qadhafi of Libya arms from there came in feeding terrorist movements in Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Chad and Cameroon.

(Arul Louis can be contacted at [email protected])