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Weapons Of Mass Destruction (Amendment) Bill, 2022: India's Position On International Regime

Rishi Pandey & Somya Gadpayle
19 Sep 2022 6:55 AM GMT
Weapons Of Mass Destruction (Amendment) Bill, 2022: Indias Position On International Regime
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On 6th April 2022, the Lok Sabha passed "The Weapons of Mass Destruction and their Delivery Systems (Prohibition of Unlawful Activities) Amendment Bill, 2022" through a voice note with the members conveying their consensus that such a modification was a pressing priority. The Bill seeks to modify The Weapons of Mass Destruction and their Delivery Systems (Prohibition of Unlawful Activities) Act, 2005.

The 2005 Act outlaws the transit, manufacture, and transfer of weapons and associated delivery systems. Mass destruction weapons include biological, chemical, and nuclear weapons. This bill expands its scope. The Bill bans funding for weapons and allows the government to seize, freeze, or attach the economic resources and financial assets of those engaged.

Subramanyam Jaishankar, India's external affairs minister, said the change will boost national security and global norms. He said the UNSC's financial sanctions and Financial Action Task Force's proposals target finance for weapons and delivery systems.

What Are Weapons Of Mass Destruction?

Weapons of Mass Destruction (hereafter referred to as 'weapons') can cause large casualties and ruin valuable assets. Nuclear, chemical, radiological, and biological weapons often fall under it, although other items can also. Sadly, it happened on 9/11 when fuel-filled planes were used as weapons, killing hundreds, hitting the Pentagon, and bringing down the 110-story Twin Towers.

The range of attacks involving weapons is dependent on the enemy's creativity. Some instances encompass exploding a train loaded with poisonous chemicals as it arrives towards a city, or positioning a radiological instrument, posed as HVAC equipment, close to the intake apertures of a jam-packed building. Broadly, weapons can include Nuclear,Biological and Chemical Weapons.

According to the legislation, chemical warfare involves dangerous compounds and their progenitors used in activities other than agricultural, military, or industrial. Biological weapons use microbial agents or poisons without protective, peaceful, or prophylactic uses.

Have The Weapons Of Mass Destruction Ever Been Used?

The extensive usage of chemical weaponry commenced during the World War I when the Germans made use of mustard gases at the Langemarck village in the year 1915. During World War II, Japan used biological weaponry against China. The USA made use of nuclear weapons when it dropped atomic bombs over the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in Japan.

Which Nations Possess Weapons Of Mass Destruction?

Nine nations have nuclear weaponry, namely France, Russia, the United States of America, Pakistan, Israel, North Korea, and India. A huge portion of nukes is contained by Russia and the US. As per the Federation of American Scientists, Russia possesses 5,977 nuclear weapons, although this comprises about 1,500 which are put down to be dismantled and are retired.

The USA possesses 5,428 nuclear warheads, the United Kingdom has 225, France possesses 290, Pakistan has 165, India possesses 160, and China has 350 nukes. Israel contains 90 nukes and North Korea has 20, as reported by scientists.

International Rules On Weapons Of Mass Destruction:

International restrictions limit such weapons' use. 1925's Geneva Protocol banned biological and chemical weapons. BWC 1972 and CWC 1992 banned chemical and biological weapons. Under the NPT, countries must reduce their nuclear stockpiles and theoretically eliminate them.

Since the 1970s and 1980s, these countries have less warheads. North Korea ratified the deal but then withdrew.

Indian Laws On Weapons Of Mass Destruction:

India introduced the 2005 Act on Weapons in order to curb the unlawful acts pertaining to WMDs and their delivery systems. The 2005 Act states that India is devoted towards the target of worldwide nuclear disarmament and is exerting control over the export of organisms, equipment, technologies, materials, and chemicals related to weapons and their methods of conveyance.

The 2005 Act also grants an integrated legal course for the prevention of the conveyance of weapons to terrorists or non-State actors.

Why Is The 2005 Act Getting Amended?

The Minister introduced the bill to alter the 2005 Act, which simply banned weapons' production. The bill bans financing weapons and their transport. According to the changes, the Centre can commission any authority to enforce the law.

A person who aids or violates Sections 8 and 10 of the Act faces at least five years in jail, up to life, and a fine.

Why Is The Bill Being Discussed Now?

The Amendment Bill states the rationale behind its introduction at this time under its 'Statement of Objects and Reasons'. It enunciates that the international regulations have expanded the regulations concerning proliferation of weapons and their delivery systems. In addition to this, "the United Nations Security Council's targeted financial sanctions and the recommendations of the Financial Action Task Force have mandated against financing of proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and their delivery systems".

Taking into consideration, thereof, "there is a need to amend the said Act to provide against the financing of proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and their delivery systems so as to fulfil our international obligations", the Bill reads.

More Powers In The Hands Of Government Against Terror-Funding: Position Of India

Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention - The Treaty was made operational in 1975 and it seeks to forbid the expansion, manufacturing, possession, transfer and use of biological weapons. During the recent UNSC Ukraine meet which took place in March 2022, India stressed on the abidance of Biological Weapons Convention. A total of 183 countries amongst 195 are signatory to this convention including India, US, Russia and Ukraine.

Chemical Weapons Convention - The Chemical Weapons Convention prohibits designing, producing, acquiring, and storing chemical weapons. It prohibits using chemical weapons. India bans chemical weapons usage, including by terrorists.

The 1968 Treaty is a cornerstone of nuclear non-proliferation and nuclear disarmament. It aimed to prevent nuclear proliferation, promote nuclear disarmament, and encourage peaceful nuclear energy. This motivated its creation.

A safeguard mechanism under supervision of the International Atomic Energy Agency, is established under the Treaty in order to achieve the goal of non-proliferation and to foster confidence between States parties Agency. Agency inspections ensure that the Treaty is observed. Safeguards prevent fissile material from being diverted to nuclear weapons, promoting international cooperation and equal access to peaceful nuclear technology for all nations.

1970 saw the Rome Treaty take effect. Rome Treaty extended 11 May 1995. 191 countries, including five nuclear powers, ratified the Treaty. Most countries have accepted the NPT, showing its value.

India And The Nuclear Non- Proliferation Treaty:

The United Nations Security Council unanimously endorsed Resolution 1887 on nuclear non-proliferation, which, among other things, called on states who were not parties to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty to become parties to it. However, in response to the resolution, India stated explicitly that it would not join the Treaty as a non-nuclear weapon state because nuclear weapons are a vital aspect of India's national defense. Only the five permanent members of the UN Security Council (the US, Russia, UK, France, and China) are recognized as nuclear weapon powers, and other countries can only join the Treaty as non-nuclear weapon states. This is unacceptable to India, hence the topic of joining the Treaty is moot. India has said that it "cannot accept externally mandated norms or standards on topics within the competence of its Parliament or that are inconsistent with India's constitutional provisions and procedures, or that are adverse to India's national interests or encroach on its sovereignty."

India And The Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty:

India's stance on the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty is also based on sound policy considerations. Indian officials have stated that the Treaty in its current discriminatory form will be unable to be signed and ratified by their country. India, on the other hand, has promised to maintain its voluntary and unilateral embargo on additional nuclear tests indefinitely. Only India has said that it feels its security will be enhanced rather than lessened in a world free of nuclear weapons, making it the only nuclear-armed state to make such a declaration.

Empowerment Of Government Through The Bill:

The statute concerning Weapons of Mass Destruction needs to be amended, this is the time where advancements in technology is surging every minute. With rapid increase in advancement, the concerns also increase with respect to the use of weapons.

The Amendment Bill seeks to provide a few updates essential to this time. It pronounces the power to Central Government to take actions against the activities as mentioned under Section 12A. Subsection (3) of 12 A reads- "The Central Government may exercise its powers under this section through any authority who has been assigned the power under sub-section (1) of section 7."

It also aims to handle government the powers to "freeze, confiscate, or attach monies or other financial assets or economic resources owned or controlled by such a person, entirely or jointly, directly or indirectly; held by or for such a person; or produced or created from such funds or assets.". The amendment further proposes to "prohibit any person from making funds, financial assets or economic resources or related services available for the benefit of persons related to any activity which is prohibited under this Act".

Since global organizations like Financial Action Task Force have expanded financial sanctions, India has harmonized its own legislation to meet with international standards. Recent technological advances, such as drones or illegal conduct in biomedical labs, could be used for terrorist operations. The 2005 Act did not adequately address these risks. The Amendment addresses new dangers and fits current realities.

Views are personal.

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