India Biological Facilities
India Biological Facilities
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Information regarding potential biological warfare pursuits on the part of India remains scarce. India is a signatory of the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention (BTWC) and has pledged not to develop an offensive biological warfare (BW) program. Open source data indicating the existence of a covert program is scarce, but India is theoretically capable of redirecting peaceful or defensive research toward offensive applications. There is a multitude of facilities across India undertaking research on a variety of biotechnology-related issues. Having a strong agricultural base, India has a number of laboratories and facilities that conduct research on various pesticides and diseases affecting agricultural crops. Furthermore, like most developing nations, India conducts research on several endemic diseases that have been weaponized by other nations in the past. For instance, given the plague outbreak of 1994 and several anthrax-related scares in 2001, India's research on these pathogens is understandable. Ultimately, while there is a strong biological infrastructure in place that could mask a covert offensive BW program, no open source data indicates that this is the case.
India does conduct defensive BW research, brought to light in statements made by military spokespersons regarding various defensive exercises involving nuclear, chemical, and biological (NBC) warfare. Since 11 September and the anthrax attacks in the United States, there has been an increasing interest in NBC defense in India, and a number of NBC-related courses have been established in both the government and private sectors.
Control over India's BW program officially starts with the government of India, which is responsible for ensuring the country's defense. Although the office of the president is nominally in command of the armed forces, the executive responsibility for national defense and for the chemical warfare program rests with the Union Cabinet headed by the prime minister. The next subordinate level is the defense minister. Within the Ministry of Defence, the BW program is overseen by the Department of Defence Research & Development (DDR&D), headed by a Secretary who also serves as Scientific Adviser to the Defense Minister. The main function of the DDR&D is the formulation of research, design, and development plans for equipment used by the three military services. Reporting to the DDR&D is the Defense Research & Development Organization (DRDO), which administers the government laboratories working in the BW arena.
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- Biological weapon (BW)
- Biological weapons use microorganisms and natural toxins to produce disease in humans, animals, or plants. Biological weapons can be derived from: bacteria (anthrax, plague, tularemia); viruses (smallpox, viral hemorrhagic fevers); rickettsia (Q fever and epidemic typhus); biological toxins (botulinum toxin, staphylococcus enterotoxin B); and fungi (San Joaquin Valley fever, mycotoxins). These agents can be deployed as biological weapons when paired with a delivery system, such as a missile or aerosol device.
- Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention (BTWC)
- The BTWC: The Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production and Stockpiling of Bacteriological (Biological) and Toxin Weapons and on Their Destruction (BTWC) prohibits the development, production, or stockpiling of bacteriological and toxin weapons. Countries must destroy or divert to peaceful purposes all agents, toxins, weapons, equipment, and means of delivery within nine months after the entry into force of the convention. The BTWC was opened for signature on April 10, 1972, and entered into force on March 26, 1975. In 1994, the BTWC member states created the Ad Hoc Group to negotiate a legally binding BTWC Protocol that would help deter violations of the BTWC. The draft protocol outlines a monitoring regime that would require declarations of dual-use activities and facilities, routine visits to declared facilities, and short-notice challenge investigations. For additional information, see the BTWC.
- Plague: The disease caused by the bacterium Yersinia pestis. There are three forms of plague: bubonic plague, pneumonic plague, and septicemic plague. Bubonic plague refers to infection of the lymph nodes by Y. pestis, causing black sores or “buboes,” pneumonic plague refers to infection of the lungs, and septicemic plague refers to infection of the bloodstream. Although no longer a serious public health hazard in the developed world, the bacterium can spread from person-to-person in aerosolized form, and has been investigated as a biological weapon by Japan and the Soviet Union.
- The common name of the bacterium Bacillus anthracis, as well as the name of the disease it produces. A predominantly animal disease, anthrax can also infect humans and cause death within days. B. anthracis bacteria can form hardy spores, making them relatively easy to disseminate. Germany, the United Kingdom, the United States, and the USSR/Russia have all investigated anthrax as a biological weapon, as did the Japanese cult Aum Shinrikyo. Anthrax-laced letters were also used to attack the U.S. Senate and numerous news agencies in September 2001. There is no vaccine available to the general public, and treatment requires aggressive administration of antibiotics.
- Anthrax Attacks
- Anthrax Attacks: Refers to the 2001 mailing of a total of seven letters containing anthrax to several U.S. news outlets and the offices of two U.S. senators. These attacks killed five and sickened 17. The investigation of the attacks by an FBI-led task force is known as Amerithrax.
- Chemical Weapon (CW)
- The CW: The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons defines a chemical weapon as any of the following: 1) a toxic chemical or its precursors; 2) a munition specifically designed to deliver a toxic chemical; or 3) any equipment specifically designed for use with toxic chemicals or munitions. Toxic chemical agents are gaseous, liquid, or solid chemical substances that use their toxic properties to cause death or severe harm to humans, animals, and/or plants. Chemical weapons include blister, nerve, choking, and blood agents, as well as non-lethal incapacitating agents and riot-control agents. Historically, chemical weapons have been the most widely used and widely proliferated weapon of mass destruction.