Weapons of Mass Destruction : Options for India
Garima Singh, Research Associate ·       

Nuclear, Chemical and Biological weapons are not only a serious threat to the West but also to India. Global threats from WMD have been captured extensively in scholarly writings but their challenges to India have mostly been ignored. And, the events of 9/11 may be a defining moment for the West, but do they mean the same for India?

In the backdrop of these dilemmas, this book analyses the implications of a possible use of biological and chemical agents against India and the nuclear risk to the Indian state and society. It examines whether the country faces a greater WMD threat from states or non state actors. Since, doubts have been raised by the western scholars on the safety and security of nuclear materials in Pakistan; it has been considered prudent to look at these issues in greater detail. There is, the possibility of a smaller nation using Biological Toxin ( BT) and Chemical (C) agents to offset its conventional asymmetry. Although, the book argues that in the probability matrix the chances of state sponsored BT and C attacks are low. It discusses as to how India can protect itself against these deadly weapons and what stand should India take at the international forums.

Of the three categories of WMD, chemical weapons (CW) are said to be the easiest for use by state actors. The state armies can also handle the threat from CW with comparative ease. It is informed that it is not very difficult to convert a chemical manufacturing plant into a CW manufacturer. The proliferation of CW is not considered difficult as compared to nuclear weapons. Hence, the need for country's intelligence systems to keep track of the suspected country, which has the capability of CW, has been highlighted. Biological and Toxin Warfare (BTW) weapon has been referred to as the poor man's atom bomb. The book argues that though small amounts of BTW can be produced but it does not find favour with the military which believes in quick results. BTW calls for long incubation periods.

Whilst, deterrence is seen to be working in the subcontinent, unauthorized use of nuclear weapons, as a possibility has been discussed in great detail. Possibility of a crude nuclear devise manufactured by non state actors has also been gone into. AQ Khan has been described as a "friendly scientist" who may have helped in the theft of nuclear weapons.

The book is divided into five parts. Part I discusses the dangers posed by Nuclear, Biological Toxin and Chemical agents. It studies the threat posed by these weapons not just to the Indian state but also to the Indian people. It visualises the threat from nuclear armed, Pakistan and China. Possibility of an accidental use of nuclear or radiological weapon, due to the absence of mutual confidence building measures has not been ruled out. Pran Pahwa's logic, based on a source published in 1996, that there is no evidence that any terrorist organization has obtained nuclear materials or devices, is debatable.

B.S Malik discusses a brief history of chemical agents and traces the use of CW since World War I. Some examples of CW attack have been chronologically summarized. The author provides an insight into the detailed characteristics of CW agents. However, improved technologies may have escaped his attention. The effectiveness of biological agents have been discussed by Raja Menon. The annexure provided on the potential agents for Biological Weapons(BW) and Australia Group export control list is educative.

Part II of the book focuses on the formal and non formal nuclear threats faced by India. Threat is seen as a condition which inhibits one's freedom to think and act naturally. MS Mamik elaborates on the threat of WMD in terms of it's source, identifying the threat change and counter actions.

Part III of the book discusses the current international regimes. Matin Zuberi and Arundhati Ghose present excellent analyses of nuclear non proliferation and CW/ BW regimes, respectively. Matin Zuberi considers the Nuclear Proliferation Treaty (NPT) as the "crown Jewel" of all the regimes. The author examines the articles of the NPT and the safeguards Arundhati Ghosh considers the Geneva Protocol as the "norm setter" and looks at the export control groups which have an impact on the BW/CW regimes.

Part IV of the book highlights India's negotiating positions in various international regimes. Matin Zuberi describes the crises faced by the nuclear non proliferation regime. A case study of Pakistan and China brings into light the problems faced by India due to the proximity to both these countries. The covert purchasing network developed by Pakistan for developing its nuclear weapons program points to circumventing the regime by Pakistan. Pakistan has been described as the "epicenter' of nuclear proliferation. China too has been a leading violator of the NPT for more than two decades. It has been argued that China had joined the CTBT only after completing its nuclear test series. It is stated that the NPT regime is breaking asymmetrically. And that, the treaty serves the interests of all major powers in the international system and the weaker members have reconciled to their status. Status of North Korea after its withdrawal from the NPT has been questioned and Iran's quest for nuclear weapons which is also a signatory to the NPT has been discussed. With NPT serving only the haves, the US has graduated from a posture of Mutually Assured Destruction to Unilateral Assured Destruction.

The last part of the book discuses India's options. It focuses on options available to the Indian Government in international forums. What could be done at the policy level has also been addressed by Raja Menon. He looks at the structural problems associated with dealing with biological and toxin warfare in India and identifies seven theoretical frameworks which need to be built up in India to cater to the likely threat. The author highlights the need for legislation, chain of command, demarcation of responsibilities, liaisons during peacetime etc. The new Indian initiative to form the National Emergency Management Agency ( NEMA) received praise from the author.

The book stands out from other books on the subject, due to its presentations of the set of recommendations at the end. Every chapter explains the topic in detail and at the end carries recommendations which serve as a policy brief. Although, it can be said that the book itself is a policy brief. It is ideal for scholars, bureaucrats, defense strategists and serving personnel in the armed forces.