Taking serious notice of the large-scale loss of human life and disability caused by landmines, the UN Secretary General has asked all countries to sign the international treaty prohibiting the production, stockpiling and use of this weapon. The most dreadful aspect of landmines is their invisibility since they are planted in the ground below the surface. It is because of their invisibility that people inadvertently tread on them and get killed or maimed. The most horrifying thing is that most of the victims are children.
Till recent past anti-personnel landmines had been synonymous with Afghanistan, even though this country has never produced landmines. The case of Afghanistan shows the grave consequences of involvement of external forces in the internal affairs of a country. From 1989 to November 2020, large numbers of civilians have been killed in landmine explosions and blasts of explosive remnants of war (ERMs) in Afghanistan. Children accounted for most of the recorded casualties. They fall prey to ERWs because some of them are toy-shaped. The hidden threat is still present in the war-worn country as indicated by periodic reports of deaths and injuries. The South Asian country, a signatory to the treaty banning anti-personnel mines, has destroyed most of the stockpiled mines.
Only 31 countries have fully removed landmines, and 32 states are yet to do so despite their clearance obligations. The missile ban treaty came into effect in 1999 and many states have not yet signed it, including the US, Russia, China, India, Israel, Iran, North Korea, Myanmar and Vietnam. Signatories are supposed to carry out the conditions of the treaty within 10 years after they ratify the accord, though the time limit can be extended. Vietnam, for its part, says it would need decades to fully comply with the accord considering it had to fight two very destructive wars in the 1960s and 1970s. Is it considerations of realpolitik that are holding back other countries?