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Chemical Weapons

India has an advanced commercial chemical industry, and produces the bulk of its own chemicals for domestic consumption. In 1992 India signed the Chemical Weapons Convention, stating that it did not have chemical weapons and the capacity or capability to manufacture chemical weapons. India became one of the original signatories of the Chemical Weapns Convention [CWC] in 1993, and ratified it on 02 September 1996. Since, unlike the nuclear non- proliferation treaty and the comprehensive test ban treaty, this treaty's provisions were equally applicable to all countries, including the powerful countries, India had readily accepted it. The treaty came into force on April 29, 1997. The full destruction of the weapons grade chemicals will take place only at the end of a 10-year period. As India has one of the largest chemical industries in the world, this industry will benefit from unrestricted trade and technology access which would be denied to non-members of the treaty.

Although India had endorsed the treaty in September 1996, becoming the 62nd country to do so, when it appeared as though the United States might not approve it, India too declared that it might review its earlier decision endorsing the treaty. Indian observers were of the view that, should America itself fail to approve the treaty, there would be diminished pressure on China and Pakistan against producing chemical weapons. According to India's ex-Army Chief General Sunderji, a country having the capability of making nuclear weapons does not need to have chemical weapons, since the dread of chemical weapons could be created only in those countries that do not have have nuclear weapons. Others suggested that the fact that India has found chemical weapons dispensable highlighted its confidence in the conventional weapons system at its command.

When the Third UN Disarmament Conference, held in 1988, decided that the mext logical step in the disarmament process would be measures to halt production of chemical weapons, Indian diplomats responded by claiming that India had no chemical weapons. Foreign Minister K Natwar Singh repeated this claim in 1989 in the Paris Conference of the State Parties to the Geneva Protocol of 1925, as did Minister of State Eduardo Faleiro repeated at the January 1993 Paris Conference CWC signing ceremony. However, India declared its stockpile of chemical weapons to the Chemical Weapons Convention in Geneva on 26 June 1997, the deadline for all signatories to the pact. New Delhi publicly declared that, in keeping with the stipulations arising from the ratification of the Chemical Weapons Convention, India had filed initial declarations on "testing and development of chemical weapons and their related facilities which were developed only to deal with the situation arising out of possible use of chemical warfare against India."

In its required declarations under the CWC, India acknowledged the existence of a chemical warfare program. and disclosed the details of its stockpiles and the availability of manufacturing facilities on a very small scale. New Delhi has pledged that all facilities related to its CW program would be open for inspection. The declaration kept India's chemical armory under wraps, since the CWC Secretariat maintains the confidentiality of the declaration.

The published literature detailing India's chemical weapons capabilities is extremely sparse. According to one published report, India's stockpile of chemical weapons consists of mustard gas shells left by the British of World War II vintage. These shells, fired from a 25 pounder gun, are said to be in storage and not under the operational control of the Indian Army. India is also reported to have manufacturing facilities for production of agents in small quantities.

The Indian government has set up Nuclear, Biological and Chemical (NBC) warfare directorates in the Services, besides an inter-Services coordination committee to monitor the programme. The Indian Army established a Nuclear, Biological and Chemical (NBC) cell at Army HQ to study the effects of NBC warfare. The Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) is also participating in the program. Research on chemical weapons has continued in various establishments of the military and DRDO research labs. In addition, work is carried out by DRDO to design and fabricate protective clothing and equipment for troops on the battlefield in case of a chemical weapons attack. The Defence Research and Development Establishment (DRDE) at Gwalior is the primary establishment for studies in toxicology and biochemical pharmacology and development of antibodies against several bacterial and viral agents. In addition, research is carried out on antibodies against chemical agent poisoning and heavy metal toxicology. Chemical agents such as Sarin and nerve gas are produced in small quantities to test on protective equipment.

Protective clothing and equipment are designed and manufactured amongst other places at the Defence Materials and Stores Research and Development Establishment at Kanpur. India has developed five types of protective systems and equipment for its troops as a safeguard against nuclear, biological and chemical (NBC) hazards. The development of all five types of protective systems and equipment has been completed and their induction into the service has beenformally approved. The five types of protective systems and equipment are: NBC individual protective equipment, NBC collective protection system, NBC medical protection equipment, NBC detection equipment and the NBC decontamination system.

India is said to have acquired" chemical weapons in the 1980s in response to Pakistan's acquisition of chemical agents and protective clothing. It is widely believed in India that Pakistan used chemical weapons against Indian soldiers in Siachen in 1987. Reportedly when Pakistan used chemical weapons in Siachen against Indian troops there was panic in the defence headquarters and officials rushed to the defence research establishment in Gwalior in search of protective measures. In 1992 India declared to Pakistan that it did not possess chemical weapons, and India and Pakistan issued a declaration that neither side possessed or intended to acquire or use chemical weapons.

It is reported that even after India ratified the Chemical Weapons Treaty in September 1996, efforts continued for manufacturing and stockpiling chemical weapons for use against Pakistan. India's Prithvi surface-to-surface missiles (SSMs) can carry five different types of warheads. Two types of warheads have already been deployed, and three other warheads, presumably nuclear, chemical and biological, are under development. On 25 June 1997, the Indian government stated that "India will disclose to Pakistan stocks of its chemical weapons". The decision was taken to make a unilateral disclosure on the instruction of Prime Minister I.K. Gujral.

In June 1999 there were published allegations that India had used or was planning to use chemical weapons against the Mujahideen and Pakistani army elements fighting at the Kashmir border. Former Pakistani Inter-Services Intelligence chief Gen.(retd) Hamid Gul [who had opposed Pakistani ratification of the Chemical Weapons Convention] said that Mujahideen had captured a very sensitive posts at Kargil and that there were clear chances that India would use chemical weapons against the Mujahideen. Despite published reports of evidence that India had shifted chemical weapons and to the Kashmir theater, claims of the use of lethal or non-lethal chemical agents remain unconfirmed.

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