Weapons of mass destruction are a controversial set of weaponry capable of causing large-scale damage, Read here to know more about them.
The Government of India introduced the Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) and their Delivery Systems (Prohibition of Unlawful Activities) Amendment Bill, 2022 in the Lok Sabha.
The bill contemplates prohibiting the financing of any activity concerning WMD and to empower to act against financiers of such activities.
Key points of the Bill:
The bill is to modify the Weapons of Mass Destruction and their Delivery Systems (Prohibition of Unlawful Activities) Act, 2005. This Act covers unlawful activities relating to biological, chemical, and nuclear weapons and their delivery systems.
It also provides for integrated legal measures to exercise controls over the export of materials, equipment, and technologies concerning weapons of mass destruction and their delivery systems and for prevention of their transfers to non-State actors or terrorists.
The existing Act does not cover the financial aspect of such delivery systems and the new provisions are essential to meet international obligations.
The Bill aims to achieve three objectives:
- Prohibit financing of activities linked to WMD.
- Empower the center to freeze, seize or attach funds, financial assets, or economic resources for preventing such financing.
- Prohibit making available funds, financial assets, or economic resources for any prohibited activity about weapons of mass destruction and their delivery systems.
Weapons of Mass destruction
A weapon of mass destruction (WMD) is a nuclear, radiological, chemical, biological, or any other weapon.
WMD has the potential to kill and bring significant harm to a large number of people or cause immense damage to artificial structures, natural or the biosphere.
Weapons of mass destruction constitute a class of weaponry with the potential to:
- Produce in a single moment an enormously destructive effect capable to kill millions of civilians, jeopardizing the natural environment, and fundamentally altering the lives of future generations through their catastrophic effects;
- Cause death or serious injury to people through toxic or poisonous chemicals;
- Disseminate disease-causing organisms or toxins to harm or kill humans, animals, or plants;
- Deliver nuclear explosive devices, chemical, biological, or toxin agents to use them for hostile purposes or in armed conflict.
Several multilateral treaties exist to outlaw several classes of WMDs like:
Multilateral treaties targeting the proliferation, testing, and achieving progress on the disarmament of nuclear weapons include:
- Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT),
- Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW),
- the Treaty Banning Nuclear Weapon Tests In The Atmosphere, In Outer Space, And Under Water, also known as the Partial Test Ban Treaty (PTBT), and
- Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT), which was signed in 1996 but has yet to enter into force.
Several treaties also exist to prevent the proliferation of missiles and related technologies, which can be used as a vehicle to deliver WMDs:
- Hague Code of Conduct (HCOC) and the
- Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR)
Another multilateral grouping, the Nuclear Supply Group (NSG) was formed to avert the proliferation of nuclear weapons and prevent acts of nuclear terrorism. Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) is a group of nuclear supplier countries that seek to prevent nuclear proliferation by controlling the export of materials, equipment, and technology that can be used to manufacture nuclear weapons.
Weapons of Mass Destruction: Measures taken in Asia and the Pacific
States in Asia and the Pacific have experienced first-hand the inhumane effects of WMDs, and the region has assumed a leadership role in the global campaign to delegitimize all forms of WMDs.
Three of the six treaties establishing nuclear-weapon-free zones are located in Asia and the Pacific:
- Treaty of Rarotonga (South Pacific Nuclear Free Zone Treaty, 1986),
- Bangkok Treaty (Southeast Asian Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone Treaty, 1995),
- Central Asia Nuclear-Weapon-Free-Zone (2006)
Types of Weapons of Mass Destruction
As mentioned earlier the core types of WMDs are biological, chemical, and nuclear weapons:
(1) Biological weapons:
A bioweapon or biological agent of threat is the usage of bacteria, virus, protozoan, parasite, fungus, chemical, or toxin purposefully as a weapon in bioterrorism or biological warfare.
More than 1,200 different kinds of potentially weaponizable bio-agents have been described and studied to date.
International laws on Biological weapons:
International restrictions on biological weapons began only with the 1925 Geneva Protocol, which prohibits the use but not the possession or development of chemical and biological weapons.
The 1972 Biological Weapons Convention (BWC) is an international treaty banning the development, use, or stockpiling of biological weapons; as of March 2021, there were 183 States Parties to the BWC.
In 1985, the Australia Group was established, a multilateral export control regime of 43 countries aiming to prevent the proliferation of chemical and biological weapons.
In 2004, the United Nations Security Council passed Resolution 1540, which obligates all UN Member States to develop and enforce appropriate legal and regulatory measures against the proliferation of chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear weapons and their means of delivery, in particular, to prevent the spread of weapons of mass destruction to non-state actors.
(2) Chemical weapons:
A chemical weapon uses chemicals to inflict death or injury on living and non-living beings.
According to the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), this can be any chemical compound intended as a weapon “or its precursor that can cause death, injury, temporary incapacitation, or sensory irritation through its chemical action. Munitions or other delivery devices designed to deliver chemical weapons, whether filled or unfilled, are also considered weapons themselves.”
Chemical weapons can be widely dispersed in gas, liquid, and solid forms, and may easily afflict others than the intended targets. Nerve gas, tear gas, and pepper spray are three modern examples of chemical weapons.
During World War II the Nazi regime used a commercial chemical agent to commit industrialized genocide against Jews and other targeted populations in large gas chambers. The Holocaust resulted in the largest death toll on chemical weapons in history.
International laws on chemical weapons:
International law prohibited the use of chemical weapons under the 1899 Hague convention.
The 1922 Washington Naval Treaty, also known as the Five-Power Treaty, aimed at banning chemical warfare but did not succeed because France rejected it.
The 1925 Geneva Protocol, officially known as the Protocol for the Prohibition of the Use in War of Asphyxiating, Poisonous or other Gases, and of Bacteriological Methods of Warfare, is an international treaty prohibiting the use of chemical and biological weapons.
The 1993 Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) is the most recent arms control agreement with the force of International law. Its full name is the Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production, Stockpiling, and Use of Chemical Weapons and on Their Destruction. That agreement outlaws the production, stockpiling, and use of chemical weapons. It is administered by the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), which is an independent organization based in The Hague.
(3) Nuclear weapons
A nuclear weapon is an explosive device that derives its destructive force from nuclear reactions, either fission or a combination of fission and fusion reactions. Both bomb types release large quantities of energy from relatively small amounts of matter.
Nuclear weapons have been deployed twice in war, by the United States against the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945 during World War II.
Presently eight countries- China, France, India, North Korea, Pakistan, Russia the US, and the UK- have acknowledged being a nuclear state. But other countries like Israel maintain nuclear ambiguity.
International laws on nuclear weapons:
In the 1960s, steps were taken to limit both the proliferation of nuclear weapons to other countries and the environmental effects of nuclear testing.
- The Partial Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (1963) restricted all nuclear testing to underground nuclear testing, to prevent contamination from nuclear fallout.
- The Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (1968) attempted to place restrictions on the types of activities signatories could participate in, to allow the transference of non-military nuclear technology to member countries without fear of proliferation.
In 1957, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) was established under the mandate of the United Nations to encourage the development of peaceful applications of nuclear technology, provide international safeguards against its misuse, and facilitate the application of safety measures in its use.
In 1996 the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT) was introduced which prohibits all testing of nuclear weapons. A testing ban imposes a significant hindrance to nuclear arms development by any complying country.
India has not signed the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty but is a signatory to both Biological Weapons Convention and Chemical Weapons Convention.
The presence of weapons of mass destruction in the world is a terrifying reality and efforts have to be put in by the international community together with support from the nuclear-weapon states for guaranteeing a safer and peaceful world.
Biological weapons are of the greatest concern to mankind in the contemporary world among all the components of weapons of mass destruction hence requiring a stringent verification mechanism.
For Chemical Weapons, the stipulated goal enshrined in the CWC has not been achieved so far. The CWC prohibited the development, production, and stockpiling of chemical weapons and the signatories were supposed to destroy their existing stockpiles by 2007. Unfortunately, it had not been able to keep the time limit and the movement towards achieving the target has not picked up.
The current debate on a nuclear-weapon-free world has to take a proper shape and the commitment has to come from top nuclear weapon countries like the United States and Russia.
The threat is real and unless and until adequate measures are taken on time, the possibility of getting hold of fissile materials in the wrong hands can never be ruled out encouraging acts of bioterrorism.
Previous year questions:
- Recently, the USA decided to support India’s membership in multilateral export control regimes called the “Australia Group” and the “Wassenaar Arrangement”. What is the difference between them? (2011)
- The Australia Group is an informal arrangement that aims to allow exporting countries to minimize the risk of assisting chemical and biological weapons proliferation, whereas the Wassenaar Arrangement is a formal group under the OECD holding identical objectives.
- The Australia Group comprises predominantly Asian, African, and North American countries whereas the member countries of Wassenaar Arrangement are predominantly from the European Union and American Continents.
Which of the statements given above is/are correct?
(a) 1 only
(b) 2 only
(c) Both 1 and 2
(d) Neither 1 nor 2
- With reference to ‘Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW)’, consider the following statements: (2016)
- It is an organization of the European Union in working relation with NATO and WHO.
- It monitors the chemical industry to prevent new weapons from emerging.
- It provides assistance and protection to States (Parties) against chemical weapons threats.
Which of the statements given above is/are correct?
(a) 1 only
(b) 2 and 3 only
(c) 1 and 3 only
(d) 1, 2 and 3