Foreign Policy Watch: India-United States

UN Arms Trade Treaty (ATT)


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : UN Arms Trade Treay

Mains level : Arms Trade Treay and its significance

China will join a global pact to regulate arms sales that has been rejected by the United States.

The New START, INF, Open Skies and now the ATT …. Be clear about the differences of these treaties. For example- to check if their inception was during cold war era etc.

What is the Arms Trade Treaty?

  • The Arms Trade Treaty is a multilateral treaty that regulates the international trade in conventional weapons. It entered into force on 4th December 2014.
  • The ATT is an attempt to regulate the international trade of conventional weapons for the purpose of contributing to international and regional peace; reducing human suffering; and promoting co-operation, transparency, and responsible action by and among states.
  • 105 states have ratified the treaty, and a further 32 states have signed but not ratified it.
  • India has abstained from voting for this Treaty

Highlights of the treaty

ATT requires member countries to keep records of international transfers of weapons and to prohibit cross-border shipments that could be used in human rights violations or attacks on civilians. The treaty would ensure that no transfer is permitted if there is a substantial risk that it is likely to:

  • be used in serious violations of international human rights or humanitarian law, or acts of genocide or crimes against humanity;
  • facilitate terrorist attacks, a pattern of gender-based violence, violent crime, or organized crime;
  • violate UN Charter obligations, including UN arms embargoes;
  • be diverted from its stated recipient;
  • adversely affect regional security; or
  • seriously impair poverty reduction or socioeconomic development.

China’s agenda at ATT

  • Beijing saying it is committed to efforts to “enhance peace and stability” in the world.
  • It comes after the US announced plans last year to pull the United States out of the agreement which entered into force in 2014.
  • The US Senate never ratified the 2013 Arms Trade Treaty after former president Barack Obama endorsed it, and Trump has said he would revoke his predecessor’s signature.

Why has India abstained?

  • From the beginning of the ATT 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 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.
  • However, the ATT is weak on terrorism and non-state actors (undoubtedly Pakistan) and these concerns find no mention in the specific prohibitions of the Treaty.
  • Further, India cannot accept that the Treaty is used as an instrument in the hands of exporting states to take unilateral force majeure measures against importing states parties without consequences.

Also read:

U.S. set to exit the ‘Open Skies Treaty’ Copy

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