India home to 40 million illegal small-arms
* Oxfam-led report says arms entering India from Pakistan, Nepal, Myanmar and China
NEW DELHI: India is home to 40 million pieces of illegal small arms out of an estimated 75 million pieces in worldwide circulation, according to a joint report by Oxfam, Amnesty International and the International Network on Small Arms (IANSA).
The report, released later this month, claims that the bulk of illegal small arms makes its way into Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Uttar Pradesh, Jharkhand, Orissa and Madhya Pradesh, raising serious concerns about the easy accessibility of small and lethal arms and their unhindered use across north and central India.
In addition, a equal if not larger, amount small arms are being manufactured in illegal arms factories in UP and Bihar, selling on the black market for as little as (Indian) Rs 200. The report claims that small arms, through direct or threatened use, inflict more deaths, injuries, rapes, kidnappings and torture than any other weapon.
The report also details how manufacturers in central India (particularly in UP) use the licence numbers of old, unusable or destroyed legal weapons to make them appear legitimate.
Chinese pistols have also become a hot favourite in the illegal small arms bazaar, since they are easily available and relatively cheaper. This trend poses a major problem for states in the red corridor covering Bihar, UP, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, Orissa, Maharashtra, West Bengal, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh.
The porous Indo-Nepal border, nestling UP and Bihar, provides and easy entry point into India for Chinese pistols, Kalashnikovs and M-16s, since these are used mainly by Naxalites insurgents who have ties to Nepal’s Maoist, claims the report.
A sizeable amount of illegal arms also enters India from Pakistan’s North West Frontier Province as well as the Southeast Asia arms bazaar comprising Thailand, Cambodia and Myanmar. In addition, India’s free movement regime with Myanmar has facilitated the smuggling of small arms into India.
The report identifies as many 13 gun-running routes in and around the Northeastern border areas and the Chittagong hill tracts. Ruili, a Chinese town on the Myanmar-China border represents a nerve centre for the illegal trade of small arms into India, with arms entering Mizoram, Manipur and Nagaland by land and Chittagong by sea.
The report also indicates a strong drugs-arms link: “Armed groups are often intimately linked with drug trafficking. An estimated 95 percent of the world’s opium comes from war-torn nations, drug money bankrolls armed groups in Afghanistan and Myanmar, to name just two countries. Arms and drugs often travel on the same routes in different directions, using the same operators, middlemen and carriers. Revenues from drugs finance the purchase of arms, ammunition, uniforms, military equipment and other items.”
While the report acknowledges India’s strong anti-drug and arms laws, it points out that uneasy relations between South Asian neighbours have rendered them ineffective. “It’s the main hindrance in efforts to prevent small arms proliferation. A disinclination to address the problem has meant that South Asia lags far behind some other regions in its efforts to address small arms proliferation,” says IANSA.
The Indian government, on its part, has been trying to tackle the problem. The External Affairs and Home Ministries are currently drafting a joint proposal to the United Nations, seeking a global ban on small-arms sales to non-state users.
The ban will seek to include both military-style small arms and light weapons as well as commercial firearms. A UN report says that a ban on small arms would cover revolvers, self-loading pistols, rifles and carbines, assault rifles, submachine guns and light machine guns. Light weapons would include heavy machine guns, hand-held under-barrel and mounted grenade launchers. sana