What happens when the whole world suffers because of the arms struggle of two superpowers? What happens when a nation keeps on proliferating its nuclear weapons? What happens when there are civilian casualties during a war? These are the questions that have been answered by a number of arms limitation and disarmament treaties. Arms limitation, also referred to as arms control, and disarmament treaties have a major role to play in the peaceful state of the world today. This research paper provides a detailed understanding of the various terms related to this topic. This paper begins with the introduction that, in a very simple language, provides a clear picture of what the topic is about. The definitions of all the significant terms are explained under this heading. Compliance and non-compliance of international treaties have been given primary importance. Compliance occurs when the parties to a treaty follow the provisions of it and non-compliance occurs when they disregard those provisions.
International treaties, comnpliance, international law, arms limitation, disarmament, non-compliance
Gone are the days when a country could prosper and develop even while staying aloof from the rest of the world. This is an era of collaboration and coordination. The world, today, is a Global Village where almost all the nations are dependent on each other for some thing or the other, just like the residents of a village are dependent on each other for their basic needs. This notion of a ‘Global Village’ is reflected in the formation of various international treaties and in the compliance or non-compliance of the State parties with these treaties.
This research paper is an attempt to analyse the trends of the past few decades regarding compliance with international treaties, particularly with respect to arms limitation.
Before starting with the research, it was necessary to understand what terms like compliance, international treaty and arms limitation (also known as arms control), actually mean.
- Compliance can be said to occur when the actual behaviour of a given subject conforms to prescribed behaviour, and non-compliance or violation occurs when actual behaviour departs significantly from prescribed behaviour.
- Another definition of compliance says that it is the degree to which States adjust their behaviour to the provisions contained in the International agreements they have entered into. This minimalist definition excludes norms and international customs, which have not been codified in writing.
- A third definition says that compliance is a sense of legal obligation, the perception of the distribution of power, and the interests of the States. Rational institutional approaches to compliance assume that State preferences are given and fixed.
- From the above three definitions, it can be observed that compliance with international treaties has been of utmost importance when it comes to existing harmoniously on this planet. This also confirms the notion of this world being a ‘Global Village’, which was discussed in the very beginning.
- A treaty is a formal, legally binding written agreement between actors in international law. It is usually made by and between sovereign states but can include international organisations, individuals, business entities, and other legal persons
- A treaty is an international agreement concluded between States in written form and governed by international law, whether embodied in a single instrument or in two or more related instruments and whatever its particular designation.
Arms Limitation or Control
- Arms limitation is an agreement between two or more countries to reduce the number of weapons owned, with the aim of preventing war.
- Arms control aims to limit the number of weapons and to regulate their use by virtue of bilateral or multilateral agreements or arrangements.
- Disarmament aims at the elimination of the entire weapon system categories. The spread of weapons of mass destruction (WMDs) poses a serious threat to international security.
- Disarmament by states is about accounting for controlling and eliminating weapons as they work together in the community to make the world a safer place.
The research on this topic was conducted using secondary sources like books, research papers, articles, newspapers, and websites. This study uses a descriptive approach to analyse the topic-compliance with international treaties with respect to Arms limitation. There was no field-work done for the research of this paper. The method used is an attempt to provide a detailed and comprehensive understanding of this topic.
Review of Literature
Disarmament: A Basic Guide
This book provides a comprehensive understanding of the challenges faced by the States in order to make this world more peaceful in the 21st century. This book uses analysis instruments like figures, tables, and treaty tables. The latest edition ponders upon all the developments undertaken after 2012.
It has provided a detailed picture of emerging threats like cyber weaponry, unmanned combat, aerial vehicles, and lethal autonomous weapons systems. It consists of 16 chapters, and the book is updated after some intervals to add the latest development related to disarmament. The first chapter- Why is Disarmament Important? – provides a brief history of the nature of conflict and the weaponry used to fight it in the course of the past 100 years. Before the twentieth century, only a few countries maintained deadly weapons with them. The destruction caused during a war would be limited to the participants of the war. The casualties would be usually of active combatants, and nearly no civilian or innocent would be injured.
In the twentieth century, most of the States maintain weaponry with them that can destroy not only the participants of war but entire societies. The casualties of armed combatants in World War I were nearly 8.5 million, and the estimated civilian casualties ranged between 5 million to 10 million. In World War II, around 55 million people, soldiers, and civilians combined were laid to death. Weapons of mass destruction, like chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons, were also used. Nuclear weapons were used for the first time in 1945, when they were dropped on the Japanese cities Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
In the twenty-first century, most of the victims of these disastrous wars are civilians. Marginalised sections of society like women, children, elderly, disabled and poor are the most affected by wars. There has been a huge refugee crisis in the past two decades due to wars. More than 65 million people have been displaced due to conflicts and fear of persecution. Terrorism is a major issue in today’s times, with the middle-eastern countries being the most affected. In this century, States also interfere in the internal civil wars of other States. One example of this is The Indian Peacekeeping Forces interfering in the Sri Lankan civil war in 1987 on Sri Lanka’s demand. Apart from the history, the book also consists of chapters on global military expenditure, nuclear weapons, treaty on the non-proliferation and nuclear weapons, chemical weapons, biological, weapons, missile and missile defence, conventional arms and the arms trade, small arms and light weapons, landmines, cluster munitions, new and emerging weapons technologies, children and armed conflict, women, peace and security, the United Nations and the Disarmament.
Major Arms Limitation and Disarmament treaties
- Geneva Protocol (1928)- Protocol for the Prohibition of the Use in War of Asphyxiating, Poisonous or Other Gases, and of Bacteriological Methods of Warfare, also known as the Geneva Protocol was an attempt to ban the use of chemical and biological weapons. There are a total of 146 State Parties to this treaty and 38 signatory States. Many States entered this treaty on the condition that they would not use biological and chemical weapons first, but if these weapons were being used against them, then they would certainly use them. The provisions of this treaty are now considered by many legal experts being part of customary international law.
- Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) (1968)-The aim of this treaty is to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons and accomplish the goal of disarmament. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) is given the responsibility of establishing safeguards for the peaceful use of nuclear energy. It was adopted on 12 June 1968 and came into force on 5 March 1970. There are a total of 190 parties to this treaty. India, North Korea, Israel, Pakistan, and South Sudan are non-treaty.
- Outer Space Treaty (1967)-This treaty is also known as Treaty on Principles Governing the Activities of States in the Exploration and Use of Outer Space, including the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies. It was based on the Declaration of Legal Principles Governing the Activities of States in the Exploration and Use of Outer Space, which had been adopted by the General Assembly in its resolution 1962 (XVIII) in 1963. It came into force mainly due to the progress in the development of intercontinental ballistic missiles in the 1950s. These missiles could reach their targets through outer space. 113 nations are parties to this treaty. 23 nations are signatories.
States Parties to the Treaty undertake not to place in orbit around the earth any objects carrying nuclear weapons or any other kinds of weapons of mass destruction, install such weapons on celestial bodies, or station such weapons in outer space in any other manner. 
- Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty (1972-2002)-This treaty was negotiated between the United States and the Soviet Union as part of the Strategic Arms Limitation Talks. It was signed on 26 May 1972 and came into force on 3 October 1972. The United States and Soviet Union negotiated this treaty to limit their arms race in nuclear weapons. In 2001, the then United States’ president, George W. Bush declared that in his opinion, the United States and Russia no longer needed this treaty and that the US would soon withdraw from it. Washington was worried because this treaty was barring it from using its weapons even against terrorist or rogue-state ballistic missile attacks. After the withdrawal of the US, the treaty ceased to be in force from 13 June 2002.
Do States always comply with the arms control and disarmament treaties they are party to?
Although there is a number of arms control and disarmament treaties that expect the State parties to comply with their rules, some States turn a blind eye to the gravity of the matter and continue to proliferate their weaponry.
The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) carries out the process of determining non-compliance.
The staff of inspectors shall also have the responsibility of obtaining and verifying the accounting referred to in sub paragraph A-6 of this article and of determining whether there is compliance with the undertaking referred to in sub paragraph F-4 of article XI, with the measures referred to in sub- paragraph A-2 of this article, and with all other conditions of the project prescribed in the agreement between the Agency and the State or States concerned. The inspectors shall report any non-compliance to the Director General, who shall there upon transmit the report to the Board of Governors. The Board shall call upon the recipient State or States to remedy forthwith any non-compliance that it finds to have occurred. The Board shall report the non-compliance to all members and to the Security Council and General Assembly of the United Nations. In the event of failure of the recipient State or States to take fully corrective action within a reasonable time, the Board may take one or both of the following measures: direct curtailment or suspension of assistance being provided by the Agency or by a member, and call for the return of materials and equipment made available to the recipient member or group of members. The Agency may also, in accordance with article XIX, suspend any non- complying member from the exercise of the privileges and rights of membership.
When a State does not comply with the non-proliferation treaty, it violates Article III of the treaty.
1. Each non-nuclear-weapon State Party to the Treaty undertakes to accept safeguards, as set forth in an agreement to be negotiated and concluded with the International Atomic Energy Agency in accordance with the Statute of the International Atomic Energy Agency and the Agency’s safeguards system, for the exclusive purpose of verification of the fulfilment of its obligations assumed under this Treaty with a view to preventing diversion of nuclear energy from peaceful uses to nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices. Procedures for the safeguards required by this Article shall be followed with respect to source or special fissionable material, whether it is being produced, processed, or used in any principal nuclear facility or are outside any such facility. The safeguards required by this Article shall be applied on all source or special fissionable material in all peaceful nuclear activities within the territory of such a state, under its jurisdiction, or carried out under its control anywhere.
2. Each State Party to the Treaty undertakes not to provide: (a) source or special fissionable material, or (b) equipment or material especially designed or prepared for the processing, use or production of special fissionable material, to any non-nuclear-weapon State for peaceful purposes, unless the source or special fissionable material shall be subject to the safeguards required by this Article.
Marshall Islands vs. India (Obligations concerning Negotiations relating to Cessation of the Nuclear Arms Race and to Nuclear Disarmament) : The Marshall Islands, in 2014, sued India and eight other nuclear nations in the International Court of Justice on the grounds that they have not been complying with the International legal provisions on disarmament of nuclear weapons. In 2016, the court disregarded this lawsuit, stating that it could not proceed with the merits of the case.
The IAEA board of Governors found out on five occasions that a State was in non-compliance with the provisions of NPT- Iraq in 1992, North Korea in 1993, Romania in 1992, Libya in 2004 and Iran in 2006. Even after so many developments, there is no unanimous view of the definition of non-compliance.
After reading numerous literatures, statutes and treaties on arms control and disarmament it can be said that the International community is working hard when it comes to Arms limitation and disarmament but still there is a long way to go. Some suggestions that can be given as a layman are as follows:
- The nuclear States should not increase the number of nuclear weapons with them.
- Weapons of mass destruction should never be used no matter how intense the situation is.
- During a war, the civilians should be kept safe, and the parties should ensure that no one else other than the armed combatants are the victims.
- As much as possible, disputes must be solved by diplomacy rather than using violent measures like armed conflicts because 10 years of diplomatic talks are better than 10 days of destructive war.
- Nations must still keep stock of weaponry with them to fight against terrorism and other related threats. But, these weapons should only be used as a means of defense, and even while fighting terrorists, civilian casualties should be nil.
- Equal say must be given to all the nations in the United Nations Security Council. The power of veto given to the United States of America, Russia, France, China, and the United Kingdom should be abolished, and no nation should hold a permanent position in the Security Council.
- The International Tribunals should be given the authority to punish the nations that do not comply with the International treaties they are signatory to.
- Lastly, peace must be promoted among the nations. They should realise that in the era of the global village, all the nations are dependent on each other for various things, and it is not a feasible option to keep animosity against each other.
In the past few decades a lot of arms control and disarmament treaties have come into force. Many of these Treaties have been ardently followed by its signatories. Sometimes many States violate the provisions of these Treaties and it leads to non-compliance. Although there is no clear definition of non-compliance, there are Articles of various statutes and treaties that lay down consequences of non-compliance.
In today’s times, there is a need for the nations to give up all the violent measures of solving their disputes and switch to active diplomacy. The consequences of armed conflicts are also faced by the civilian population who are not responsible for the war but are affected the most by it. Most of the treaties are for Disarmament of nuclear weapons, chemical weapons and biological weapons. There are various articles and literature published on this topic. The United Nations has also published many books.
International limitations on the creation, manufacture, stockpiling, spread, and use of small arms, conventional weapons, and weapons of mass destruction are together referred to as arms control. Before the development of the handgun, arms control may have applied to melee weapons (such as swords). Although it may also involve attempts by a country or group of countries to impose restrictions upon a non-consenting country, arms control is typically exercised through the use of diplomacy, which seeks to impose such limitations upon consenting participants through international treaties and agreements. Treaties and agreements on arms control are frequently viewed as a means of preventing expensive arms races that might be detrimental to national objectives and long-term peace. Some are employed to prevent the spread of specific military technologies (such as missile or nuclear armament) in exchange for guarantees from potential developers that they won’t be harmed by those technologies. Additionally, certain arms control agreements are made to reduce the harm that war does, particularly to the environment and to civilians, as this harm is seen to be detrimental to all parties involved, regardless of the outcome of a conflict.
While many peace activists view arms control treaties as a crucial tool against conflict, the treaties’ signatories frequently view them as simple means of reducing the huge costs of weapon development and production, and even the expenses involved with war itself. By restricting the availability of weapons that would make war so expensive and destructive that it could no longer be used as an instrument for national policy, arms control can even be a means of preserving the viability of military action. The world can be a far better place if nations follow all the disarmament treaties and resort to diplomacy no matter how long it takes to solve disputes. At least it will not take the lives of innocent people.
- Oran Young, Compliance and Public Authority (1st ed. 2011)
- Vienna convention on the Law of Treaties, 1969
- Article 2(1)(a) Vienna convention, 1969
- Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Govt. of Finland, https://um.fi/arms-control-and-disarmament
- Disarmament & Security Centre, Aotearoa, New Zealand: What does Disarmament mean?
- Melissa Gillis, Disarmament: A Basic Guide (4th ed. 2017)
- Protocol for the Prohibition for the Use in War of Asphyxiating, Poisonous and Other Gases and of Bacteriological Methods of Warfare, June 17, 1925
- Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, March 5, 1970
- Treaty on Principles Governing the Activities of States in the Exploration and Use of Outer Space, including the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies, Article IV, January 27, 1967
- Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, US & Soviet Union, May 26, 1972
- IAEA, Article XII.C, 1968
- Obligations concerning Negotiations relating to Cessation of the Nuclear Arms Race and to Nuclear Disarmament (Marshall Islands v. India), Jurisdiction and Admissibility, Judgment, I.C.J. Reports 2016, p. 255
Army Institute of Law
 Oran Young, Compliance and Public Authority (1st ed. 2011)
 Vienna convention on the Law of Treaties, 1969
 Article 2(1)(a) Vienna convention, 1969
 Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Govt. of Finland, https://um.fi/arms-control-and-disarmament
 Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Govt. of Finland, https://um.fi/arms-control-and-disarmament
 Disarmament & Security Centre, Aotearoa, New Zealand: What does Disarmament mean?
 Melissa Gillis, Disarmament: A Basic Guide (4th ed. 2017)
 Protocol for the Prohibition for the Use in War of Asphyxiating, Poisonous and Other Gases and of Bacteriological Methods of Warfare, June 17, 1925
 Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, March 5, 1970
 Treaty on Principles Governing the Activities of States in the Exploration and Use of Outer Space, including the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies, Article IV, January 27, 1967
 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, US & Soviet Union, May 26, 1972
 IAEA, Article XII.C, 1968
 Obligations concerning Negotiations relating to Cessation
of the Nuclear Arms Race and to Nuclear Disarmament
(Marshall Islands v. India), Jurisdiction and Admissibility, Judgment,
I.C.J. Reports 2016, p. 255
footnote hyperlinks, citations