Declaration by US : Export and Subsequent Use of Armed or Strike-Enabled Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs)
  • The US, along with 40 other states, has issued a declaration outlining the principles which govern the export and use of armed drones to ensure they do not cause instability or help terrorism and organized crime.
  • It recognizes that misuse of armed or strike-enabled drones “could fuel conflict and instability and facilitate terrorism and organized crime” and therefore “the international community must take appropriate transparency measures to ensure responsible export and subsequent use”.
It lays out five key principles for international norms, including:
  1. The “applicability of International law” and human rights when using armed drones.
  2. A dedication to following existing arms control laws when considering the sale of armed unmanned systems.
  3. Sales of armed drone exports take “into account the potential recipient country’s history regarding adherence to international obligations and commitments”.
  4. Countries who export unmanned strike systems follow “appropriate transparency measures” when required.
  5. A resolution to continue to “ensure these capabilities are transferred and used responsibly by all States.
What’s the concern now?
  • Countries like Russia, China and Brazil has not signed it
  • This makes it certain that next year’s meeting will find it very difficult to achieve a consensus which will be needed to set up a global regime.
  • Standards in the joint declaration are lower than those that the US maintains for its own exports and there is little incentive for countries to strive for higher standards.
Why this is happening now?
  • Over the past three years, there has been a real rise in the proliferation of drones by Israel, the US and in particular by China. 
  • Iraq, Nigeria, and apparently Egypt have all gone on to launch drone strikes over the past two years utilising armed drones bought from China.
  • On the one hand US drone industry lobbyists have long argued that their industry is hampered by the US membership of the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) which controls the export of larger drones as neither China nor Israel are members. The drone industry has argued that the MTCR rules need to be ‘relaxed’ in order for the US to gain its fair share of the market. 
  • This new initiative seemingly therefore arises in part from drone industry lobbying to put in place a process which they want to see as levelling the playing field.
  • Also, stung by international criticism of its use of armed drones over the past decade, the US wants at least the appearance of putting in place international rules to restrict the proliferation and use of such technology.
  • It seems these two disparate and contrary ideas have come together in this new process.
Advantages of using drones:
  • They are often cheaper;
  • Their use can be more readily concealed;
  • They allow for more precise targeting, with the potential for less “collateral damage”;
  • Their use can involve less serious infringements of sovereignty than invasion by troops; and
  • They may be less likely to provoke widespread hostile reactions by the population of the country in which they are used than military operations involving troops on the ground.
But these advantages generate three major risks:
  • Of violating sovereignty,
  • Of over-using the military option, and
  • Of making it more difficult to identify violations of constraints against targeting non combatants.   
Prospects for success:
  • US, Israel and China are market leaders
  • China is unlikely to join this initiative
  • US may persuade Israel to join it
Impact on India : At a time when India is seriously looking at expanding the use of drones in its military strategy, and when its negotiations with the US to buy 22 Predator Guardian drones are at an advanced stage, serious thought needs to be given in New Delhi on what role it wants to play in the emerging regime to manage the use and export of drones.



Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top