India’s morbid obsession with landmines

Even though India voted in favour of a UN General Assembly Resolution on Mine Ban Treaty in 1996, it remains one of the largest producers and stockpilers of the antiquated weapons in the world

Getty images
Getty images

Ashutosh Sharma

Notwithstanding the claims of several researchers that landmines planted along the Line of Control (LoC) in Jammu and Kashmir and International Border with Pakistan have proven ineffective in curbing insurgency and checking infiltration by armed militants, India remains the third largest stockpiler of anti-personnel landmines after Russia and Pakistan, according to a recent report published by Landmine and Cluster Munition Monitor.

The Monitor is a research wing of the Nobel Prize-wining International Campaign to Ban Landmines and Cluster Munition Coalition (ICBL-CMC), a de-facto monitoring regime of the 1997 Mine Ban Treaty—a legally binding international agreement that bans the use, production, stockpiling and transfer of anti-personnel mines and places obligations on countries to clear affected areas, assist victims and destroy stockpiles—and Convention on Cluster Munitions. In India, minefields are laid along the border areas as part of military operations but not even a single casualty of an infiltrator or armed militant has been reported by the government agencies till date, researchers argue. Ironically, the indiscriminate use of landmines along the border with Pakistan has led to deaths, disabilities and displacement of India's own citizens. Many a times, security personnel manning the borders have themselves fallen victim to landmines.

Nevertheless, India doesn’t have a national mine action programme, according to the report. “India is contaminated with mines mainly as a result of mine-laying by government forces on and near the northwestern border with Pakistan during the 2000-2001 stand-off between the two countries. Anti-personnel and anti-vehicle mines were laid on cultivated land and pasture, around infrastructure and around some villages. India also contends with increased use of IEDs and mines by nonstate armed groups in other parts of the country,” according to the Monitor study. The report also states that improvised mine contamination had also been identified in India, Lebanon, Libya, Pakistan, Russia, Sri Lanka and Syria. But despite being a mine-affected state with significant contamination and major clearance operations, usually conducted by the Army, India has never reported annual expenditures. Anti-personnel mines have been globally condemned and banned due to their inherently indiscriminate nature which is clearly at odds with the most basic principles of International Humanitarian Law.

India’s morbid  obsession with  landmines

Sri Lanka became the 163rd nation to accede to the anti-personnel mine ban convention in December last year. Even though India, since its Independence, has been a passionate advocate of disarmament measures in the United Nations system, it is obstructing the universalisation of the Mine Ban Treaty—which comprehensively bans antipersonnel landmines. Besides India, US, Russia, China, Saudi Arabia, India, Pakistan and Israel among other countries are also not signatories to the Treaty. “India voted in favour of a UN General Assembly Resolution urging states to vigorously pursue an international agreement banning anti-personnel mines in 1996. One year later, however, when the Treaty came into existence, India chose to remain outside it,” Monitor researchers maintain.

“India has instead joined an Optional Protocol to the Convention on Conventional Weapons (CCW) which regulates antipersonnel landmine use, but does not ban it. CCW Optional Protocol II does not address the problems caused by anti-personnel landmines, which the Mine Ban Treaty does by comprehensively banning the weapon,” according to researchers at the Monitor.

“India files an annual Article 13 Transparency Report with the CCW regarding optional protocol. However, for the past 12 years, it has simply filed an empty report which states 'nothing has changed'.”

Contrary to the government claims that "the production and use of landmines is vested with agencies of the Union Government and there is no manufacture or trade of landmines by the private sector," the report claims that many Indian companies are involved in producing components for a weapon which is almost universally banned and condemned. “Production of antipersonnel mines by India appeared to be ongoing in 2016 and 2017. Purchase order records retrieved from a publicly accessible online government transaction database list at least a dozen private companies providing components of M-16, M-14, and APER 1B antipersonnel mines to the Indian Ordnance Factories in late 2016 and throughout 2017. Components were produced under these contracts and supplied to the Ammunition Factory Khadki and Ordnance Factory Chandrapur, both in Maharashtra state. In February 2017, a private Indian arms manufacturer had components for bounding fragmentation anti-personnel landmines listed within their sales catalogue on display at the IDEX military trade event in Abu Dhabi.”

The Monitor identified India, Myanmar, Pakistan and South Korea among the countries which have most likely been actively producing mines. At least nine states not party to the Mine Ban Treaty have formal moratoriums on the export of anti-personnel mines: China, India, Israel, Kazakhstan, Pakistan, Russia, Singapore, South Korea, and the US. “The Indian government does appear to retain in Indian Ordinance Factories the final stage of construction of anti-personnel landmines.

NH Image
NH Image

No subcontractor found to date assembles completed mines, nor does it appear that any subcontractor makes the central explosive charge, although some manufacture detonators. So, it does appear that final assembly is retained with agencies of the Indian government,” the report says, adding that “The use of subcontractors by Indian Ordinance Factory is widespread. By researching the Ordinance Factory tender records, we have identified many with current contracts.” Companies from Egypt and India exhibited sales brochures offering anti-personnel mines, or components for them, at an international arms fair in February 2017 in Abu Dhabi, according to the report. The Monitor also has complied a listing of “current contracts” showing who the contract was awarded to, and which companies applied for consideration, the number of units, cost and total cost and when it is to be delivered by plus other information.

“All current contracts are with one of two Indian Ordnance Factories located in Maharastra, where the mines are assembled with components from private companies. Presumably they produce and add the explosive charge here, as no vendor provides more than fuzes, bodies, and other parts.”

The companies listed for production of components of anti-personnel mines on the Indian Ordnance Factories Purchase Orders between October 2016 and November 2017, according to the report include Sheth & Co., Supreme Industries Ltd, Pratap Brothers, Brahm Steel Industries, M/s Lords Vanjya Pvt. Ltd, Sandeep Metalkraft Pvt. Ltd, Milan Steel, Prakash Machine Tools, Sewa Enterprises, Naveen Tools Mfg Co. Pvt. Ltd, Shyam Udyog, and Dhruv Containers Pvt. Ltd.

In addition, it adds, the following companies had established contracts for the manufacture of mine components: Ashoka Industries, Alcast, Nityanand Udyog Pvt. Ltd, Miltech Industries, Asha Industries, and Sneh Engineering Works. Mine types indicated were either M-16, M-14, APERS 1B, or “APM” mines besides several registered vendors. The report further cites an example from October 2006 when the Criminal Investigation Department in Kolkata arrested three brothers for stockpiling weapons.

“Two of them were sub-contractors who manufacture plastic casing of anti-personnel mines at a Behala factory, and then supply the cases to the ordnance factory through a contractor,” it reads.

The study quotes a Deputy Inspector General of Police in Chhattisgarh who informed the state news agency in July 2017, that “Pressure IEDs planted randomly inside the forests in unpredictable places, where frequent de-mining operations are not feasible, remain a challenge.”

“The use of these victim-activated improvised mines was attributed by the police to the Communist Party of India-Maoist (CPI-M) and its armed wing, the People’s Liberation Guerrilla Army. In September 2017, an elephant was killed after it stepped on a landmine attributed to the CPI-ML (Maoist) in Jharkhand state. In May 2017, India’s Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) recovered a cache of 53 landmines, in Jharkhand state and in December 2016, the CRPF recovered another cache of 120 landmines, also in Jharkhand state,” the report says.

The Monitor—which largely relies on reports of seizures by government forces, reports of significant use, or verified photographic evidence from journalists to identify non-state armed groups (NSAG) possessing mine stockpiles—further states in its recent study that NSAGs and criminal groups in India reportedly possess stocks of factory-made anti-personnel mines or components to manufacture improvised landmines, besides Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Myanmar, Nigeria, Pakistan, Syria, Ukraine, Yemen and Western Sahara. It further says that new contamination in 2016 and 2017, much of which consisted of improvised mine contamination, was reported from in the following States Parties: Afghanistan, Iraq, Nigeria, Ukraine, and Yemen; and in states not party: India, Libya, Myanmar, North Korea, Pakistan and Syria. “No clearance or survey results were reported.

Image courtesy: Monitor Report
Image courtesy: Monitor Report

CASUALTY DEMOGRAPHICS

  • In 2016, landmines caused at least 3,570 casualties— including factory-made antipersonnel mines (732), victim-activated improvised mines (1,805), antivehicle mines (495), and unspecified mine types (538).
  • There were at least 1,544 child casualties in 2016, the highest annual total since the Monitor began its recording in 1999. Child casualties in 2016 accounted for 42 per cent of all civilian casualties for whom the age group was known (3,634). This was the similar to the 40 per cent recorded for 2015. Children were killed (498) or injured (1,046) by mines/ explosive remnants of war (ERW) in 36 countries and other areas in 2016.
  • Civilian casualties represented 78 per cent of casualties in 2016 where the civilian/military status was known (3,921 of 5,029). The country with the most recorded military casualties of mines/ERW in 2016 was Ukraine, with 435; followed by Mali, with 82 military casualties (including peacekeeping forces); and Pakistan with 81 military and combatant casualties recorded (including soldiers, militia, and militants).
  • In India, media reporting specified that improvised mines were activated by the presence of a person or vehicle, including pressure-plate activated devices, accounting for the significant increase in casualties from seven in 2015 to 79 in 2016.
  • Casualties recorded as caused by anti-personnel mines increased from 602 in 2015 to 732 in 2016, with casualties recorded in 23 countries and areas.
  • In 2016, anti-vehicle mines caused at least 495 casualties in 19 nations and other areas. The states with the greatest numbers of casualties reported from anti-vehicle mines were Ukraine (127) and Yemen (103). In 2015, anti-vehicle mines caused 459 casualties.
  • Casualties recorded as being due to unspecified mine types decreased to 538 in 2016 from 941 in 2015. This was mostly attributable to there being a far greater number of casualties recorded as caused by unknown mine/ERW items in 2016, which would encompass various mine types.

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Published: 22 Feb 2018, 4:42 PM