New Delhi: A flourishing illegal trade in firearms is fuelling a myriad of conflicts in India and the South Asian region, and the Indian Government Delhi needs to take a leading role in stamping it out, Oxfam said on Wednesday.
The British aid agency, along with Amnesty International and the International Action Network on Small Arms, is campaigning for a global Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) and said India would stand to benefit immensely.
"India is part of a region that is flooded with arms," Oxfam's Binalakshmi Nepram Mentschel told a news conference.
CURB ILLEGAL TRADE: Oxfam's control arms policy advisor Binalakshmi Mentschel speaks at a conference in Delhi.
"According to the United Nations, India is home to about 40 million firearms. Every day 12 people are killed due to armed violence in India. India should take the lead in this campaign."
Most of the weapons are illegal but there is also a rising proportion of licensed arms-holders who have acquired weapons on grounds of self-defence.
The new proposal is due to be discussed at the United Nations General Assembly next month in what campaigners say would be the first formal step in a long process before any treaty is adopted.
From a separatist revolt in Kashmir, to a Naxal insurgency in the forests of central and eastern India, and at least two dozens insurgencies in the country's northeast, the easy availability of arms has fuelled conflicts.
Since 1990, about 39,000 AK-series rifles have been seized in Kashmir and the northeast alone.
The markings on these weapons show they had been brought from outside the country, Oxfam said.
India's most populous state of Uttar Pradesh has 900,000 arms license holders and 1,400 gun shops, it said.
"Gun shops are mushrooming in the state like public telephone booths," it quoted one gun dealer as saying.
In the state of Bihar, a pistol can be bought for as low as Rs 2,500 from the underground market.
In one of the biggest arms hauls in recent years this month, police in southern India seized 600 rockets and 12 launchers which they said were probably destined for Maoist guerrillas.
The solution, campaigners say, lies in an arms treaty that would make countries more accountable.
"The treaty would commit all countries to shared standards, and promote responsibility throughout the weapons supply chain," Mentschel said.
"The ATT would oblige states to ensure that all arms transfers are authorised by all governments involved in the transfers," she added.