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Chemical Last updated: June, 2014

Open literature provides little information regarding India's chemical warfare (CW) capability. It is widely acknowledged that India has an extensive civilian chemical and pharmaceutical industry and annually exports considerable quantities of Schedule 2 and 3 chemicals to countries and territories such as the United Kingdom, United States, and Taiwan. India ratified the CWC in 1996. It is not a member of the Australia Group.

India ratified the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) in 1996, and in 1997 declared a stockpile of 1,044 tons of Sulfur Mustard. [1] Destruction was completed in 2009 making it the third state to completely destroy its chemical weapons stockpile. [2] India’s chemical industry is a major sector of the Indian economy that includes trade in dual-use chemicals. [3] India plays an expanding role in global nonproliferation norms by providing extensive support to the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) and seeking greater participation in international export control regimes. [4] While India is unlikely to rebuild a chemical weapons capability, theft or diversion of material by terrorist or criminal organizations remains a concern. [5]

History

In 1996, India ratified the CWC and in 1997 declared a stockpile of 1,044 tons of sulfur mustard. [6] Statements by the Indian government after the declaration of the stockpile suggest that disarmament was partially intended to encourage Pakistani and Russian disarmament. In particular, Agence France Presse reported after India’s ratification that “India urged Pakistan and Russia [in New Delhi] Thursday to follow [India’s] lead in revealing details of its chemical weapon stockpiles as part of an international treaty.” [7] The article went on to quote an Indian Foreign Ministry spokesman stating that, “The government would like to reiterate that all countries, particularly those in our region, should complete their ratification ... at the earliest.” [8]

India’s decision to accede to the CWC and declare its chemical weapons stockpile is in contrast to its previous policy of denying the possession of any chemical weapons. This policy was formally established in the 1992 India-Pakistan Agreement on Chemical Weapons under which India and Pakistan agreed to “never under any circumstances… develop, produce, or otherwise acquire chemical weapons.” [9]

In order to fulfill its obligations under the CWC, India established the National Authority for Chemical Weapons Convention (NA CWC) on 29 April 1997 as an office in the Indian Cabinet Secretariat (the Cabinet Secretariat facilitates the working of the Indian government). [10] The NA CWC, inter alia, serves as the primary liaison to the OPCW from the Indian government, manages routine inspections, oversaw the destruction of India’s chemical weapons stockpile and related facilities, and monitors compliance with the CWC. [11]

India has twice been accused of using chemical weapons in the past. In June 1999, military sources within Pakistan alleged that India had launched shells containing chemical weapons at a Pakistani army position on the Line of Control between the two countries. [12] Additionally, in October 2000, Raja Israr Abbasi, an opposition leader in the Azad Kashmir Assembly, claimed that India’s use of chemical weapons had caused fields to become infertile. [13] These claims were never substantiated and India has denied them. Pakistan never requested a follow-up investigation by the OPCW. [14]

Domestic Chemical Capabilities

India’s chemical industry comprises a major sector of the Indian economy. Within India’s chemical trade are numerous chemicals of potential nonproliferation concern. For example, the Triveni Chemical Group sells several Schedule 1, 2, and 3 chemicals including Pinacolyl Alcohol (Schedule 2) and Saxitoxin (Schedule 1). [15] India’s chemical trade is promoted by the Chemical and Allied Export Promotion Council of India (CAPEXIL), a non-profit organization created by the Indian Ministry of Commerce in March, 1958 to advocate for chemical exporters to the Indian government. [16]

Although it is highly unlikely that India would use this capacity to rebuild a chemical weapons capability, theft of material by terrorist or criminal organizations remains a serious concern. A 2009 report on the “Management of Chemical (Terrorism) Disasters” by the Indian National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) highlighted extensive gaps in the ability of India to prevent and respond to chemical terrorism disasters. The most relevant of these gaps are the absence of vulnerability assessments, inadequate ability to track the sale and purchase of hazardous chemicals, inadequate security at “large institutions and isolated storage sites,” and inadequate surveillance of the movement of hazardous chemicals. [17] These problems are further compounded by the facts that NDMA’s guidelines regarding CBR terrorism are not mandatory, and some small- and medium-scale industries have inadequately trained private security forces if any forces are used at all. [18]

The risk of chemical theft or terrorism is likely to increase in the future owing to the extensive expansion of the industry which is promoted through the Indian government. Specifically, the Indian government has developed international collaboration agreements such as the Australia-India Strategic Research Fund, establishing designated Petroleum, Chemicals and Petrochemicals Investment Regions (PCPIRs), and removing industrial licensing requirements for most chemical sub-sectors. Further, the Indian government plans to invest $34 billion (USD) into three PCPIRs. [19] This effort has been driven in part by a perceived threat from China because of China’s lower tariff rates and higher production capability. [20]

Over the past 25 years, India has made extensive advancements in its preparedness for chemical catastrophes (both those caused by industrial accident or by deliberate chemical weapons usage) prompted by the 1984 Bhopal chemical disaster. The disaster occurred in December of 1984 when forty-one metric tons of gaseous methyl isocyanate was released into the atmosphere. [21] The government's response to the disaster was a catastrophic failure on all levels and led to between 3,000 and 10,000 deaths and over 520,000 were exposed to the gas. [22] This event prompted massive changes within India to develop more effective laws regarding the handling of chemical materials as well as the development of a disaster management framework in the Umbrella Environmental Protection Act of 1986. [23] The Ministry of Environment and Forest serves as the nodal ministry for responding to chemical disasters. [24]

 Export Controls

Historically, India has viewed export controls as barriers to the legitimate technological advancement of developing countries by making civilian space technology, civil nuclear power, and other technology more difficult to acquire. [25] These barriers were further seen as reinforcing inequalities between states. [26] This policy shifted after negotiations between the United States and India following India's 1998 nuclear test. [27]

Today, India's Directorate General of Foreign Trade is empowered by the Foreign Trade (Development and Regulation) Act No. 22 of 1992 (amended in 2010) to establish licensing mechanisms for Indian exports on the Special Chemicals, Organisms, Materials, Equipment, and Technologies (SCOMET) list. [28] This list includes material related to Weapons of Mass Destruction Technology that is regulated under the Weapons of Mass Destruction and Their Delivery Systems (Prohibition of Unlawful Activities) Act of 2005. [29] However, as of 2011, the SCOMET list was not fully consistent with the Australia Group's Chemical Dual Use List as the SCOMET list did not include toxic gas monitoring systems. [30] While not currently a member of the Australia Group, India's Foreign Secretary Ranjan Mathai has stated that India views participation in multilateral export control regimes including the Australia Group as an extension of its broader effort to engage with the international community on non-proliferation issues. [31] However, some Indian government sources have stated that India will not join the Australia Group without a roadmap for membership to the Nuclear Suppliers Group and the Missile Technology Control Regime. [32] The Obama administration expressed support for India's membership in these regimes. [33]

Despite these recent developments, there were problems in the past. In September 1992, the US protested the sale of dual-use chemicals by India to Iraq, Iran, and Syria after US intelligence discovered that India had shipped trimethyl phosphite, a dual-use chemical that can be converted to nerve gas via chemical synthesis, to Syria. [34] Between September 1998 and February 2001, the Indian trading company NEC Engineers Private Limited shipped $791,343 worth of sensitive and prohibited material to Iraq by routing the material through two firms in Dubai and a Jordanian businessman. [35] This included material and expertise to rebuild a chlorine plant in Fallujah, Iraq that had been cited for potential chemical weapons proliferation. [36] While the 2003 Iraq War revealed that Iraq had not been rebuilding its chemical weapons capacity, this example is nonetheless important as it illustrates how NEC Engineers was able to circumvent the old export controls.

Recent Developments and Current Status

On 27 April 2009, India completed the destruction of its entire chemical weapons stockpile and in so doing became the third state to completely dismantle its chemical weapons program. [37]

India has increasingly taken an active role in supporting the OPCW and the advancement of the international norm against chemical weapons proliferation. In December 2013, India offered $1 million and the service of its experts to the OPCW to aid in the destruction of Syria’s chemical weapons and related facilities. [38] In addition, two laboratories in India have been designated by the OPCW as laboratories for analyzing samples collected from OPCW inspections. Since 2010, both labs have consistently received an 'A' rating in the OPCW’s official proficiency tests. [39] The mass spectrometry division of the Indian Institute of Chemical Technology, one of India’s two designated laboratories for analyzing OPCW samples, has contributed to the scientific understanding of chemical weapons through the publications of several articles analyzing the characteristics of various CWC-related chemicals. [40]

Sources:
[1] Ajey Lele, “CWC’s First Decade,” CBW Magazine: Journal on Chemical and Biological Weapon, Vol. 1, Sept.-Dec. 2007, p. 12.
[2] Chris Schneidmiller, “India Completes Chemical Weapons Disposal; Iraq Declares Stockpiles," Global Security Newswire, 27 April 2009, www.nti.org.
[3] Directorate General of Foreign Trade, Government of India, “Guidelines for Export of SCOMET Items,” http://dgft.gov.in.
[4] “India Offers $1m in Aid, Experts to Destroy Syria’s Chemical Weapons,” The Times of India, 3 December 2013, http://articles.timesofindia.indiatimes.com; Rajan Mathai, “Keynote Address by Foreign Secretary Shri Ranjan Mathai,” distributed by Institute for Defence Studies and Analysis, 18 April 2012, http://idsa.in.
[5] National Disaster Management Authority, Government of India, “National Disaster Management Guidelines: Management of Chemical (Terrorism) Disasters,” June 2009, pp. 23-26, http://ndma.gov.in.
[6] Ajey Lele, “CWC’s First Decade,” CBW Magazine: Journal on Chemical and Biological Weapon, Vol. 1, Sept.-Dec. 2007, p. 12.
[7] “India Says Chemical Arsenal Revelations Won't Hit Security,” Agence France Presse (New Delhi), 26 June 1997.
[8] “India Says Chemical Arsenal Revelations Won't Hit Security,” Agence France Presse (New Delhi), 26 June 1997.
[9] “India-Pakistan Agreement on Chemical Weapons,” distributed by the Nuclear Threat Initiative, www.nti.org.
[10] National Authority Chemical Weapons Convention, “About the NA CWC,” http://nacwc.nic.in.
[11] National Authority Chemical Weapons Convention, “Functions of NA CWC,” http://nacwc.nic.in.
[12] “Pakistan Alleges India Launches Chemical Weapons in Kashmir Attention - Updates with Indian Denial,” Agence France Presse, 13 June 1999.
[13] “Urdu Daily Claims CW Employed by India in Kashmir,” World News Connection, 3 October 2000.
[14] Jean Pascal Zanders, Melissa Hersh, Jacqueline Simon, and Maria Wahlberg, “Chemical and Biological Weapon Developments and Arms Control,” in SIPRI Yearbook 2001: Armaments, Disarmament, and International Security (New York: Oxford University Press Inc.), p. 534, www.sipri.org.
[15] Triveni Aromatics & Perfumery Private Limited (Group of Triveni Chemical), “Guanidines,” www.trivenichemicals.com; Triveni Aromatics & Perfumery Private Limited (Group of Triveni Chemical), “Alcohol Stubs,” www.trivenichemicals.com.
[16] Chemicals & Allied Products Export Production Council, India, “Overview,” www.capexil.com.
[17] National Disaster Management Authority, Government of India, “National Disaster Management Guidelines: Management of Chemical (Terrorism) Disasters,” June 2009, pp. 23-26, http://ndma.gov.in.
[18] Note: The report does not distinguish between chemical, biological, and radiological facilities with respect to this point; Rajeswari Rajagopalan, Tobias Feakin, Jennifer Cole, Rahul Prakash, Wilson John, Andrew Somerville, Chemical, Biological, and Radiological Materials: an Analysis of Security Risks and Terrorist Threats to India (Delhi: Victorious Publishers, 2012), pp. 75-76, www.orfonline.com.
[19] “Indian Chemical Industry – 2012,” Gyan Research and Analytics Pvt. Ltd, 7 May 2012, p. 2, http://gyananalytics.com.
[20] Planning Commission, Government of India, “Indian Chemical Industry: Five Year Plan: 2012-2017,” p. 22, http://planningcommission.gov.in.
[21] “Bhopal Disaster,” TED Case Studies, an Online Journal, vol. 233, November 1997, www1.american.edu.
[22] Ingrid Eckerman, “Chemical Industry and Public Health: Bhopal as an Example,” Essay in Master of Public Health, Nordic School of Public Health, Göteborg, Sweden, p. 8, www.lakareformiljon.org.
[23] Paul Shrivastava, Bhopal: Anatomy of a Crisis (Cambridge: Ballinger Publishing Company, 1987); National Institute of Disaster Management, “Chemical Disaster Management: Proceeding Volume of the National Workshop,” March 2009, p. 2, www.preventionweb.net.
[24] National Institute of Disaster Management, “Chemical Disaster Management: Proceeding Volume of the National Workshop,” March 2009, p. 2, www.preventionweb.net.
[25] Rajiv Nayan and Ian Steward, “Export Controls and India,” CSS Occasional Papers, January 2013, p. 6, www.kcl.ac.uk.
[26] Rajiv Nayan and Ian Steward, “Export Controls and India,” CSS Occasional Papers, January 2013, p. 6, www.kcl.ac.uk.
[27] Rajiv Nayan and Ian Steward, “Export Controls and India,” CSS Occasional Papers, January 2013, p. 6, www.kcl.ac.uk.
[28] “India’s Export Controls: Current Status and Possible Changes on the Horizon,” SECURUS Strategic Trade Solutions, 2011, p. 1, www.securustrade.com.
[29] “The Weapons of Mass Destruction and Their Delivery Systems (Prohibition of Unlawful Activities) Act, 2005,” distributed by Ministry of External Affairs, Government of India, June 6th, 2005, http://meaindia.nic.in.
[30] “India’s Export Controls: Current Status and Possible Changes on the Horizon,” SECURUS Strategic Trade Solutions, 2011, p. 3, www.securustrade.com.
[31] Rajan Mathai, “Keynote Address by Foreign Secretary Shri Ranjan Mathai,” distributed by Institute for Defence Studies and Analysis, 18 April 2012.
[32] Rajiv Nayan, “IDSA Comment: Update on India’s Membership of Multilateral Export Control Regimes,” distributed by Institute for Defence Studies and Analysis, 19 December 2012, http://idsa.in.
[33] “Obama Seeks Expanded India-US Trade,” Al-Jazeera, 17 November 2010, http://english.aljazeera.net.
[34] Michael Gordon, “U.S. Accuses India on Chemical Arms,” The New York Times, 21 September  1992, www.nytimes.com; United Nations Environmental Programme, “Triethyl phosphite: Cas No. 122-52-1”, May 2003, www.chem.unep.ch.
[35] Shishir Gupta, “The Indian Connection,” India Today on the Net, 14 October 2002, http://archives.digitaltoday.in.
[36] Satinder Bindra and Amol Sharma, “Indian Documents Suggest Iraq Violation U.N. Resolutions,” CNN, 5 February 2003, www.cnn.com.
[37] Chris Schneidmiller, “India Completes Chemical Weapons Disposal; Iraq Declares Stockpiles," Global Security Newswire, 27 April 2009, www.nti.org.
[38] “India Offers $1m in Aid, Experts to Destroy Syria’s Chemical Weapons,” The Times of India, 3 December 2013, http://articles.timesofindia.indiatimes.com.
[39] OPCW Technical Secretariat, “Note by Director-General: Status of Laboratories Designated for the Analysis of Authentic Samples,” 12August 2013. pp. 2-3, www.opcw.org.
[40] L. Sridhar, R. Karthikraj, M.R.V. S. Murty, N. Prasada Raju, M. Vairamani, S. Prabhakar, “Mass Spectral Analysis of N-Oxides of Chemical Weapons Convention Related Aminoethanols Under Electrospray Ionization Conditions,” Wiley Online Library, 17 January 2011; Vijaya Saradhi, S Prabhakar, T. Jadadeshwar Reddy, M. Vairamani, “Ion-pair Solid-phase Extraction and Gas Chromatography-Mass Spectrometric Determination of Acidic Hydrolysis Products of Chemical Warfare Agents from Aqueous Samples,” Journal of Chromatography A, Volume 1129, Issue 1, 29 September 2006, www.sciencedirect.com.

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This material is produced independently for NTI by the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies at the Monterey Institute of International Studies and does not necessarily reflect the opinions of and has not been independently verified by NTI or its directors, officers, employees, or agents.

Get the Facts on India

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  • Abandoned its offensive chemical weapons (CW) program by 1997 and destroyed its entire CW stockpile by 2009
  • Developing a hypersonic cruise missile in collaboration with the Russian Federation