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Chemical Last updated: February, 2013

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 such as the United Kingdom, United States, and Taiwan.

During the Cold War, India developed and produced limited quantities of CW agents as part of an offensive CW program. India signed the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) in 1993 and ratified it in 1996. It abandoned its offensive CW program at some point prior to 1997. In early 2009, India completed the destruction of its CW agent stockpile in accordance with its CWC obligation. India continues to maintain a defensive CW program, overseen by the Ministry of Defense. The main research institutes overseeing India's military and civilian involvement with chemicals and dual-use materials are the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) and the Department of Chemicals and Petrochemicals, respectively. Various facilities and laboratories across the country are involved in research that could be applicable to a covert CW program.


The chemical industry is one of the oldest domestic industries in India, contributing significantly to both the industrial and economic growth of the country since it achieved independence in 1947. The chemical industry currently produces nearly 70,000 commercial products, ranging from cosmetics and toiletries, to plastics and pesticides.

The wide and diverse spectrum of products can be broken down into a number of categories, including inorganic and organic (commodity) chemicals, drugs and pharmaceuticals, plastics and petrochemicals, dyes and pigments, fine and specialty chemicals, pesticides and agrochemicals, and fertilizers.

The Indian pesticide industry has advanced significantly in recent years, producing more than 1,000 tons of pesticides annually. India is the 13th largest exporter of pesticides and disinfectants in the world, and in terms of volume, is the 12th largest producer of chemicals. The Indian agrochemical, petrochemical, and pharmaceutical industries are some of the fastest growing sectors in the economy. With an estimated worth of $28 billion, it accounts for 12.5 percent of the country's total industrial production and 16.2 percent of the total exports from the Indian manufacturing sector.

With a special focus on modernization, the Indian government takes an active role in promoting and advancing the domestic chemical industry. The Department of Chemicals and Petrochemicals, which has been part of the Ministry of Chemicals and Fertilizers since 1991, is responsible for policy, planning, development, and regulation of the industry. In the private sector, numerous organizations, including the Indian `, the Chemicals and Petrochemicals Manufacturers Association, and the Pesticides Manufacturers and Formulators Association of India, all work to promote the growth of the industry and the export of Indian chemicals. The Indian Chemical Manufacturers Association, for example, represents a large number of Indian companies that produce and export a number of chemicals that have legitimate commercial applications, but also could be used as precursors and intermediates for chemical weapons production.

Agents and Delivery

India's capability to produce chemical weapons is greatly enhanced by the sophistication of its domestic chemical industry. A number of government-owned and private sector companies produce an array of dual-use chemicals that are potential chemical weapons precursors and intermediates. A number of the domestically produced chemicals can be found on the CWC lists of Schedule 2 and Schedule 3 chemicals, as well as on the Australia Group's chemical export control list (India is not a member of the Australia Group). For example, Indian companies are capable of producing, or currently produce, 2-chloroethanol and thiodiglycol (both mustard precursors), phosgene, hydrogen cyanide (blood agent), and trimethyl phosphite and thionyl chloride (nerve agent precursors).

United Phosphorus Ltd., for example, a Bombay-based company, produces a number of nerve agent precursor chemicals that are listed on Schedule 3 of the CWC, including phosphorus trichloride, phosphorus pentachloride, triethyl phosphite, and trimethyl phosphite. In 1992, United Phosphorus's export license was suspended for shipping trimethyl phosphite to Syria. Another Indian company, Transpek Industry Ltd., also produces a number of dual-use chemicals, including thionyl chloride and sulfur dichloride. In 1990, Transpek Industry Ltd. won a bid to install and commission a turn-key chemical plant in Iran, worth an estimated $12.5 million, and in 1996 the company built the world's largest manufacturing facility for thionyl chloride outside of Europe. Similarly, the Indian government indicted the privately owned NEC Engineers Ltd. for illegally exporting chemical weapons-related technology to Iraq in 2002.

Some Indian companies also produce a wide range of dual-use equipment and materials that can be used to produce chemical weapons, including glass-lined reactor vessels with a total volume greater than 100 liters, glass-lined storage tanks with a total volume greater than 100 liters, and other equipment and technologies associated with chemical weapons development. GMM Pfaudler Ltd., for example, of Karamsad, Gujarat, is one of the leading suppliers of glass-lined equipment and other specialized process equipment for the Indian chemical industry.

India has a sophisticated technology base to develop various delivery systems for CW agents. Though it must be noted that all open source research indicates that India has not weaponized a chemical warhead, it does not lack the scientific expertise or resources, if so needed.


New Delhi signed the CWC in 1993 and on 2 September 1996, it became the sixty-second country to ratify the convention. However, it was not until 26 June 1997, that India amended its previous statement of non-possession and declared that it, indeed, had a chemical weapons stockpile.

India has submitted declarations on its "testing and development of chemical weapons and their related facilities which were developed only to deal with the situation arising out of the possible use of chemical warfare against India." Chinese defense researchers have claimed that India possesses 1,000 tons of chemical warfare agents, which are located at five chemical weapons production and storage facilities. It is indicated that these agents include mainly mustard and there are several possible delivery munitions.

By November 2003, India had destroyed 45% of its declared Category 1 stockpile, thus meeting in advance the 2007 deadline set by the CWC. By the end of 2004, India had destroyed also 1.7 metric tons of toxic waste that it had declared as Category 1 chemical weapons, all of its declared Category 2 chemical weapons, and all 1,558 of its Category 3 chemical weapons. Between 2004 and 2006, India experienced some difficulties with its chemical weapons destruction process, and it sought an extension of its deadline. In December 2006, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) granted India an extension of its final deadline for the destruction of all of its Category 1 chemical weapons to April 28, 2009. On March 26, 2009, India announced the destruction of its declared chemical weapons, in accordance with its obligations under the CWC, becoming the third nation to completely and verifiably destroy all of its chemical weapons and associated facilities.[17]

Nevertheless, the sophistication of India's domestic chemical industry would allow it to rapidly reconstitute a significant chemical weapons capability, if it chose to do so. In early 2004, India's national authority on chemical weapons conducted a CW awareness drive in the state of Gujarat where more than 50 percent of India's discrete organic chemical units are located. The Indian Institute of Chemical Technology has also proposed to set up a chemical weapons testing facility that would be the first such Indian institute to receive accreditation from the Ministry of Defense to test chemical weapon samples from domestic and foreign sources.

The Indian government created the National Authority for Chemical Weapons Convention to raise awareness in the country's chemical industry by holding seminars and workshops.

[1] "Penal Provisions in Chemical Weapons Bill," The Hindu, August 24, 2000, www.hinduonnet.com.
[2] Anthony H. Cordesman, "Weapons of Mass Destruction in India and Pakistan," Center for Strategic and International Studies, www.csis.org.
[3] Wu Guoqing and Zhou Changing, "Environment and Countermeasures in Chemical Defense in a Border Counterattack Campaign in Cold Mountainous Regions," Fanghua Xuebao, Vol. 9, No. 1, March 2000, p. 43.
[4] The Defense Research and Development Organization, www.drdo.org.
[5] "Chemicals," Department of Chemicals and Petrochemicals, www.indiachem2002.com.
[6] "Annual Report 2001-2002," Department of Chemicals and Petrochemicals, chemicals.nic.in/ vschemicals/ annrep01-02.pdf.
[7] Indian Chemical Industry: Sectors," Indian Chemical Manufacturers Association, www.icmaindia.com.
[8] "About Us," Department of Chemicals & Petrochemicals, chemicals.nic.in.
[9] "India Punishes Firm for Allegedly Selling Syria Weapons-Grade Chemicals," United Press International, September 24, 1992.
[10] "Intentia South Asia Press Release," Intentia South Asia, December 31, 2001, www.intentia-india.com.
[11] "Indian Firms Probed for Alleged Weapons Technology Sales to Iraq: Report," Agence France Presse, August 26, 2002, in Lexis-Nexis Academic Universe, 14 February 2002, www.lexis-nexis.com.
[12] Shishir Gupta, "Arms Control: The Indian Connection, India Today, October 14, 2002, www.india-today.com
[13] "Watchdog: US, Russia, India on Track to Reduce Chemical Weapons Stockpiles," Agence France Presse, April 22, 2003; in Lexis-Nexis Academic Universe, February 16, 2005, www.lexis-nexis.com.
[14] "Weapons Grade Chemicals Made in Gujarat Factories (Over 50% of India's Discrete Organic Chemical Units are Located in Gujarat)," Business Insight, February 11, 2004; in Lexis-Nexis Academic Universe, February 16, 2005, www.lexis-nexis.com.
[15] "IICT Plans Chemical Weapons Testing Lab," Business Insight August 4, 2004, in Lexis-Nexis Academic Universe, 16 February 2005, www.lexis-nexis.com.
[16] Draft Annual Report of the OPCW, June 29, 2005, OPCW website.
[17] Update on chemical demilitarisation, Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, 21 April 2009, www.opcw.org.
[18] "India Claims to Have Destroyed 93% of its Chemical Weapons," Associated Press of Pakistan, January 20, 2008, www.app.com.pk.

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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.

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