It is a historic achievement that the 193-nation United Nations General Assembly on Tuesday overwhelmingly voted for the first treaty on global arms trade, which seeks to regulate the $ 70 billion business in conventional arms. This treaty is the culmination of many years of effort to regulate the transfer of weapons from one country to another. As UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon has said, ‘The new treaty will be a powerful new tool in efforts to prevent grave human rights abuses” and “will help to keep warlords, pirates, terrorists, criminals and their like from acquiring deadly arms.’ The treaty prohibits countries that ratify it from exporting conventional weapons if they violate arms embargoes, or if they promote acts of genocide, crimes against humanity or war crimes, or if they could be used in attacks against civilians or schools and hospitals. Countries must also evaluate whether the weapons would be used by terrorists or organised crime or would undermine peace and security. They must take measures to prevent the weapons from being diverted to the black market. The treaty covers battle tanks, armored combat vehicles, large-caliber artillery systems, combat aircraft, attack helicopters, warships, missiles and missile launchers, and small arms and light weapons. The treaty will make it much harder for regimes committing human rights violations to acquire arms, in conflicts such as in the brutal civil war in Syria.
India abstained in the vote in the UN General Assembly primarily because the treaty is weak on terrorism and non-state actors. India holds that the treaty should make a real impact on illicit trafficking in conventional arms and their illicit use especially by terrorists and other unlawful non-state actors. Further, India does not accept that the treaty be used as an instrument in the hands of exporting states to take unilateral measures against importing states without consequences. However, the text of the treaty draws a link with the presence of weapons across the developing world, especially in conflict-affected areas, with the challenge of sustainable development and safeguarding human rights and is thus a valuable document. This will provide a momentum for other global disarmament and non-proliferation efforts.