Sign the treaty now

Greater Kashmir

As the animosity between India and Pakistan continues, the number of persons with amputated limbs in the state has registered an alarming increase.  Innocent border dwellers on both sides of the LoC lose their limbs to landmines laid by the two belligerent states to `protect’ their borders, and have refused to sign the Mine Ban Treaty. India has openly acknowledged that it is laying mines along its border with Pakistan. The New York Times reported on January 4, 2002, that India may attempt to mine its entire 1,800-mile (2,897- kilometre) border with Pakistan, at times creating minefields three miles wide (4.8 kilometres). Mines have been laid in agricultural  land along the LoC  and  the people living there were forced to evacuate the areas. In  1997, 122 nations signed the Mine Ban Treaty (Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Antipersonnel Mines and On Their Destruction). Neither India nor Pakistan is party to that treaty.  Almost a decade ago, an international NGO approached the Chief of one of the Kashmiri militant organisations in Pakistan who made it clear that the outfit had not been using landmines. He said the outfit does not target non-combatant civilians. He evoked massive criticism from various quarters in Kashmir. However, it was found that most of the criticism was totally unfounded.    The landmine is activated by the victim and that is what makes it detestable.  The victim always happens to be a civilian who more often than not is unaware of the hostilities shared by the two belligerent nations. The hapless victims with amputated limbs are seen in Srinagar hospitals and NGO offices begging for artificial limbs.  It has to be borne in mind that when a person dies in a landmine blast or loses a limb, his family gets shattered. The landmines have hit a good number of children in Kashmir border villages.  The reports from other side of the divide are equally disturbing. Therefore, the governments of India and Pakistan should sign the treaty now. Their reluctance to sign the treaty only reflects their apathy and indifference towards their own people.