Madhya Pradesh Chronicle

Monday, May 4 1998

VIENNA, (IANS): The United Nations has heeded a call by India to start work on having a global regime to regulate the illicit manufacture, trafficking and use of explosives.

Delegates attending the UN Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice voted to adopt a resolution submitted by India which asked the world body to start at the earliest possible date a global study on ``illicit manufacturing of and trafficking in explosives by criminals and on the abuse and misuse of explosives for criminal purposes''.

The study, the first step in the process of having control mechanisms, will collect information on criminal incidents where explosives were used, the number of such incidents, the number of victims, the nature and extent of damage caused as well as the type of explosives used. Besides, it will also study laws and regulations dealing with explosions in individual countries.

The Commission is the highest policy making body of the UN on crime prevention and criminal justice. It has 40 members selected from among nations. While any country can participate as observers, only members can submit resolutions.

This year India was selected as a member for a three year period and New Delhi used it to the maximum to get its initiative across to other nations, and found support. The Indian resolution was co-sponsored by more than ten countries, including Columbia, Greece and Sweden.

One western diplomat participating at the Commission meeting, which ended on April 30, praised Indian lobbying. ``They were well prepared and had done their work well,'' the diplomat said. The resolution now goes to the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), but its approval is just a formal one and Indian delegates here said they expect some kind of action to occur during the second half of this year.

``India has been affected by the illicit use and trafficking of explosives,'' said VK Malhotra, Joint Secretary of the Home Ministry, explaining the reasons behind Delhi's move to have international understanding on the problem of explosives. The blasts in a number of Indian cities, including in Delhi and more recently in Coimbatore, have been the driving force behind India's determination to get the UN work on it.

But Indian officials point out the use of explosives for illicit purposes is not a problem of India alone. A number of countries, including the United States where right-wing militia have planted bombs, are affected by this phenomenon.

For one thing, the delegates agreed that there is an increasing trend in international transport of explosives and that traffickers are using sophisticated measures to get their stuff across borders.

The resolution requests member countries to consider reviewing their existing laws on explosives as well as their components and parts, like detonators.

With the UN's moves towards curbing the illicit manufacturing and use of fire-arms taking a concrete turn with more and more countries and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) supporting it, Indian diplomats said it is time that the issue of explosives which is quite often closely linked to weapons was discussed at the global level.

One problem the group of experts who are to do the study will face is to define what an explosive is. One definition, which the Commission agreed could help,is that an explosive is any substance or article that is used to produce an explosion or ``propulsive pyrotechnic effect''.

The experts will also be helped by moves by the Organisation of American States' (OAS) Inter American Convention against illicit trafficking in fire-arms, ammunition and explosives which was adopted last year.

Once the study has been completed, it would be up to the experts group to analyse the information and come up with recommendations which may include possible global level action to arrest the illicit manufacture, trafficking and use of explosives.

The experts would certainly be helped by the evolving global understanding on controlling the illicit trafficking and use of fire-arms. The UN began studying this issue in 1995 and this year it not only came out with a complete report, but the Commission also agreed to begin talks of a global treaty, most probably in the form of a protocol to be added to the convention on transnational crime.

The work on the convention has been going on for some years and at the just concluded Commission the delegates agreed to complete work on it by year 2000. As it is now, the convention is expected to have at least three protocols, one of them dealing with firearms.

And should the international community accept India's wishes, then the discussions that would be initiated by the findings of the study on explosives would take a similar path, ending up in a binding international instrument, possibly in terms of a protocol attached to the up-coming convention on transnational crime.