The US joined the Oslo Conference only at the last minute to avoid being isolated on this emotive issue and set several pre-conditions, including the right to maintain APMs in Korea Or nine years, before agreeing to be a party to the proposed ban on the use, manufacture and sale of APMs. Other US demands included the right to use landmines during war and exemption for self-destructing smart mines which are' programmed to explode - hours and pose no long-term dangers. Princess Diana's interest in the welfare of landmine victims and the award of the 1997 Nobel Peace Prize to the US based international Campaign to Ban Landmines and its coordinator, Jody Williams, put the ban on APMs on the world's human rights agenda.
The Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines, concluded at Geneva in October 1997, became binding in international law on March 1, 1999. The number of ‘signatories to the convention has gone up to 133 and it has been ratified by 65 countries—well beyond the required 40 ratifications necessary for the convention to become international law. Countries which have not so far signed the treaty include China, Greece, India, Israel, North and South Korea, Pakistan, Russia, Sri Lanka, Turkey and the United States (US). Twelve countries have already completely destroyed their stocks of landmines.
The present treaty was negotiated in a remarkably short period of time. Following the Oslo Convention of October 1997, 122 countries had signed a historic treaty at Ottawa in December 1997 to ban anti-personnel (land) mines (APMs). The treaty was the result of negotiations under the Ottawa Process, begun in October 1996 when 50 states pledged to work together for a total ban on APMs by December 1997. Ihe Canadian initiative was a “fast-track” approach parallel to the involved negotiations in progress at the United Nations (UN) under Protocol II to the 1980 Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW) entitled “Protocol on Prohibitions or Restrictions on the Use of Mines, Booby-Traps and Other Devices”. A third approach to the vexed issue of banning APMs proceeded simultaneously under the Conference on Disarmament (CD) at Geneva but was yet to be fully articulated when the Ottawa Treaty was signed.
The global ban on APMs seeks to prohibit the use of mines even during armed conflict between nations over territorial and other disputes.
The wisdom of such a ban at this juncture has been the subject of a stormy international debate. The US joined the Oslo Conference only at the last minute to avoid being isolated on this emotive issue and set several pre-conditions, including the right to maintain APMs in Korea Or nine years, before agreeing to be a party to the proposed ban on the use, manufacture and sale of APMs. Other US demands included the right to use landmines during war and exemption for self-destructing smart mines (usually aerially delivered) which are’ programmed to explode — hours and, hence, pose no long-term dangers. The Oslo Conference rejected all three US demands and the US has decided to opt out of the treaty for the time being.
At the heart of the US position is the US Army’s insistence that a militarily effective alternative to APMs must be found before these 4 pons can be discarded from the inventory. APMs are employed during war to deter enemy attacks on prepared defensive positions due to the fear of having one’s feet or even legs blown off. Negotiating a minefield requires special techniques and equipment which slow down the momentum of the assault and enable the defender to cause greater attrition to the attacker by subjecting him to the onslaught of the fire power of small arms, machine guns, rocket and grenades, mortars and heavy artillery. Also, APMs are used as an anti lifting measure to protect anti-tank mines. Thus, a ban on them would nave enemy engineers to quickly clear anti-tank minefields by hand breaching using manual mine-detectors. Anti-tank mines do not pose threat fo personnel since these require much greater pressures for actuation, such as those generated by the weight of tanks and infantry combat vehicles (ICVs) or armoured personnel carriers (ACPs,) Therefore APMs are primarily a defensive weapon of war and are designed to reduce casualties of own troops while simultaneously making it prohibitively expensive for the attacker to successfully pursue an assault. India has thousands of kilometres of disputed, unsettled and ever undemarcated land borders with its neighbours. The Line of Control (LoC) in Jammu and Kashmir (J & K), including the Actual Ground Position Line (AGPL) in the area of the Saltoro Ridge west of Siachen Glacier (north of map reference NJ 9842), is an active front with daily exchanges of fire. Pakistan often launches planned and coordinated attacks to capture forward posts along the AGPL and continues to make repeated attempts to infiltrate armed militants and so-called Mujahideen mercenaries into Kashmir to sustain the flagging insurgency ‘sponsored by it since 1988-89. Even as the Northern Light Infantry battalions of the Army retreated from the areas into which they had intruded in me Kargil sector of J & K in 1999, they indiscriminately laid plastic anti Pee a in the area to prevent Indian ‘troops from closing in with the LoC and to cause additional casualties.
Under such circumstances, the use of APMs on the LoC and at the AGPL is an inescapable operational necessity for the Indian Army. The contribution of APMs to the successful defence of the LoC and the AGPI.
has been significant. Of course, it need not be emphasised that APMs have been laid by the Pakistan Army also all along the LoC and in front of their defensive positions on the AGPL. Till the Kashmir issue is successfully resolved, it is difficult to see either of the two countries agreeing to sign the landmines treaty regarding the use of landmines by their forces for self-defence.
APMs as well as anti-tank mines are laid systematically by regular armies, aS per well-rehearsed drills and procedures. Detailed records are kept of the layout of each mine and these are well marked to ensure that no one strays into them accidentally. Landmines are laid only when war is Imminent and even then only on the most likely enemy approach routes to a defensive position. After the war is over, the minefields are physically cleared and the land is made safe for the farmers to till again. After each war that India has fought, army engineers spent thousands of man-hours in lifting landmines. No case of a civilian mine casualty from an army mine on the international border has ever come to light.
APM statistics are indeed grotesque and the enormity of the damage and human suffering caused by them is only now beginning to be widely known. Princess Diana’s interest in the welfare of landmine victims and the award of the 1997 Nobel Peace Prize to the US based international Campaign to Ban Landmines and its coordinator, Jody Williams, put the ban on APMs on the world’s human rights agenda.
Approximately 110 million APMs are strewn across vast areas in 71 countries. Afghanistan and Cambodia, with about 10 million, and Angola, with over 15 million, are the most severely affected. It has been estimated that APMs claim almost 2,000 victims every month, of whom 800 are killed and 1,200 are maimed for life. Angola has one amputee per 334 inhabitants. Each year, while about 100,000 mines are cleared, two million new mines are reported to be laid, so that, for every mine cleared, 20 new Ones are planted. The conventional wisdom on the removal of all landmines is that with the present resources available in the world, it would take over 1,000 years to clear all the APMs—provided no new mines were laid.
What iS, however not well known is that almost all of the APMs which are causing so much damage and misery, have been and are being laid by terrorist and insurgent groups and the private militias of ethnic warlords and terrorist organisations, referred to as “non-state actors’ in UN parlance. APMs, which cost between US $3 and 30, are being indiscriminately laid in intra-state conflicts by opposing groups as a relatively inexpensive method of denying passage over large areas of ground to their opponents. It is these non-state actors who must be denied access to the procurement of APMs and the technology for their manufacture. However, it must be stated that APMs, particularly Improvised explosive devices (IEDs), are low-tech weapons which can be assembled in a car garage with screwdriver technology. The required explosives, small plastic containers, simple detonators and pressure-actuated fuses, are easily available in the world arms bazaar.
The present convention to ban APMs does little to ameliorate the suffering of thousands of civilians who have already been maimed or to reduce the risk to future generations from the millions of APMs which have been indiscriminately strewn across vast areas of lands stricken by ethnic and ideological intra-state conflicts. While the efforts of the countries which have signed the landmines ban treaty are indeed commendable, in its present form the ban on APMs is merely a “feel good” treaty without major significance. The total elimination of APMs would require a genuine international consensus, with viable verification measures, and the acceptance of responsibility on the part of the largest manufactures and exporters of APMs to bear the cost of their removal and destruction. Only then would the ban be truly humanitarian.