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Tuesday, 21 May, 2002, 16:53 GMT 17:53 UK
South Asia border mine fears grow
Indian soldiers demonstrate mines
Indo-Pakistani border has extensive minefields

India and Pakistan have embarked upon a huge mine-laying operation along their common border which could be accelerated as tensions continue to mount, says Human Rights Watch.


Human Rights Watch fears that escalating tensions in the region could prompt additional mine laying

Its report says that this is one of the biggest mine-laying operations anywhere in the world since 1997.

That year 122 countries reached agreement on a treaty banning the manufacture, stockpiling and use of anti-personnel landmines.

Neither India nor Pakistan have signed the treaty.

Indiscriminate impact

Both India and Pakistan have already established extensive minefields along their common border.

Human Rights Watch fears that escalating tensions in the region could prompt additional mine laying.

Both India and Pakistan - along with about a dozen other countries - still manufacture the weapons which have been banned by more than 140 governments due to their indiscriminate impact upon civilians.

Human Rights Watch says India has openly acknowledged that it is laying mixed fields of anti-personnel and anti-vehicle mines - in places creating barriers some five kilometres deep.

Limited military use

The organisation says that mines have been laid in agricultural areas, straight away after crops were planted and civilians were forced to evacuate the area.

It says Pakistan has mined its side of the border in what its government has described as a precautionary measure.

Human Rights Watch insists that these weapons have only a limited military use which is far outweighed by their negative humanitarian consequences.

Both governments say that they have made every effort to mark minefields and provide sufficient warning of their location.

But Human Rights Watch says that the numerous reports of casualties from both sides of the border call into question the effectiveness of these efforts to protect civilian lives.

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21 May 02 | South Asia
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