Bioterrorism or Biological Attack
Part of: GS-II- International issues (PT-MAINS-PERSONALITY TEST)
The Covid-19 pandemic has exposed the vulnerability of several world powers in the event of use of biological weapons against them by rogue states and terrorist groups. The United States, Britain and the Soviet Union were involved in developing complex biological weapons programs after World War II and several nations continue to do so currently as well.
Bioterrorism or Biological Attack: It is the intentional release of viruses, bacteria, or other germs that can sicken or kill people, livestock or crops.
Biological Weapons: They use microorganisms and natural toxins to produce disease in humans, animals, or plants.
- Biological weapons can be derived from: bacteria, viruses, rickettsia, biological toxins and fungi.
- These agents can be deployed as biological weapons when paired with a delivery system, such as a missile or aerosol device.
- Bacillus anthracis, the bacteria that causes anthrax, is one of the most likely agents to be used in a biological attack.
- The most destructive bioterrorism scenario is the airborne dispersion of pathogens over a major population region.
- Tropical agricultural pathogens or pests can be used as anticrop agents to hamper the food security worldwide.
It is a substantial threat because small amounts of biotic agents can be effortlessly hidden, transported and discharged into vulnerable populations. It can impact and expose military and civilian susceptibilities to biological weapons and to the complexity of offering ample safeguards.
Covid-19: Bioweapon or Not
- Novel-coronavirus is alleged to have originated in bats.
- Some intelligence agencies initially proclaimed that coronavirus occurred naturally but later on, they claimed that the pandemic might have begun from the Wuhan lab in China after the researchers were probably able to figure out how bat coronaviruses could mutate to attack humans.
- However, there is no proof that the pandemic virus was engineered or manipulated, yet.
- In the Indian context, with the existence of hostile neighbours like Pakistan and China, the threat of biological warfare becomes important and cannot be ruled out entirely.
Combating Bioterrorism (PT)
- The European Union (EU), Russia and China are finding ways to deter bioterrorism and biowarfare. The aim is to make it harder for terrorists to obtain the resources for designing biological weapons.
- These efforts should include:
- Intelligence Sharing & Rapid Detection
- Global intelligence agencies should operate together and share credible intelligence.
- Combining human resources, laboratory resources and information supervision in novel, legal and satisfactory ways that allow for timely detection and categorization of hazards.
- Rapid detection and surveillance are important for an efficient response to a bioterror strike.
- Pathogen Analysis
- Speedy, uniform techniques that allow for the discovery of an extensive range of pathogens used as biological weapons in a measurable fashion.
- Pathogens are a usual part of the environment and can complicate detection attempts.
- Strengthening the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention
- The Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention (BTWC) of 1972 prohibits signatory nations to develop, produce, stockpile or otherwise, acquire or retain:
- Microbial or other biological agents or toxins whatever their origin or method of production, of types and in quantities that have no justification for prophylactic, protective or other peaceful purposes.
- Weapons, equipment or means of delivery designed to use such agents or toxins for hostile purposes or in armed conflict.
- However, there is no exact authentication method that can ensure compliance with the BTWC. Therefore, efforts must be made to strengthen the BTWC so that it helps to uncover and successfully prevent biological weapons programs.
- India ratified and pledged to abide by its obligations in 2015.
- Biodefense Systems
- Upgrading and installing biodefense systems in major urban conglomerates to protect against deadly disease outbreaks initiated by bioterrorism.
- During the Cold War, Soviet Union had set up several Biodefense systems across the country.
- Developing and stockpiling vaccines and antimicrobial medicines that can be used to defend the people against infections triggered by biological weapons.
- Coaching first responders on how to deal with a biological weapons attack.
- Refining diagnostic laboratory capability and epidemiological capabilities.
The studies conducted to assess the actual efficiency of counter bioterrorism measures are insufficient which needs to be changed. It becomes important that engaged and methodical efforts in studying the efficiency of counter bioterrorism measures are applied in a meticulous way.
It should be taken into account that the implementation of some specific counter bioterrorism practices can possibly have consequences with respect to human rights, institutional liberties, fundamental democratic values and the Rule of Law.