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India-Pakistan Border Heavily Mined - 2002-05-29

The border between India and Pakistan is considered one of the most densely mined in the world, and more mines are reportedly being laid every day. At a news conference in Geneva Wednesday, opponents of landmines said that since the end of last year both countries have been engaged in one of the largest mine-laying operations ever.

Opponents estimate that India and Pakistan, between them, have a stockpile of 11 million weapons. India is the fifth largest landmine power in the world and Pakistan is the sixth.

Stephen Goose of the International Campaign to Ban Landmines says, since last December, each of these so-called landmine powers have been laying more and more antipersonnel and anti-vehicle mines along their common border.

"I have engaged the Indian military and the Pakistan military on many occasions on the question of how useful antipersonnel landmines truly are to them," useful deterring attack or stopping terrorists or arms or drug traffickers." There simply isn't good evidence that they have been useful," he said.

Mr. Goose says the Indian military has talked of mining the entire border to a depth of several kilometers. He says that although anti-landmine monitors have not been able to enter the area since January, civilians displaced by the military action have provided testimony to support the claim. He adds that Pakistan will not confirm whether it has mined its side of the border.

But landmine campaigners say there is some good news in south Asia. They say Afghanistan has one of the most successful mine removal programs in the world. Mohamed Hakimi of the Afghan Campaign to Ban Landmines says certain high priority areas around Kabul, the capital, have been completely cleared of mines.

"Today in Kabul you rarely find people coming to the hospital because of mines," said Mr. Hakimi. "The only problem is north of Kabul that was a front-line between the Taleban forces and Northern Alliance. Shomali Valley is now full of mines and it will take time to clear these mines. We have already sent our team to that area."

The landmine activists are meeting in Geneva to gather support for mine clearance and to call for greater assistance to landmine victims. They say a Mine Ban Treaty, approved in 1997 and signed by 124 countries, has been effective in reducing casualties from landmines. But they also acknowledge that much more remains to be done. They say between 15,000 and 20,000 people are killed each year by anti-personnel mines.