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  • 04 August, 2022

  • 15 Min Read



Parliament has passed the Weapon of Mass Destruction and their Delivery Systems (Prohibition of Unlawful Activities) Amendment Bill 2022.

The Bill seeks to amend the Weapons of Mass Destruction and their Delivery Systems (Prohibition of Unlawful Activities) Act, 2005.

Highlight of bill

  • The 2005 Act prohibits unlawful activities such as manufacturing, transport, or even the transfer related to weapons of mass destruction and their means of delivery.
  • the bill aims to ban funding of weapons of mass destruction (WMDs).
  • The bill is important for the security and reputation of the country.
  • The Bill bars the persons from financing any prohibited activity related to weapons of mass destruction and their delivery systems.
  • Weapons of mass destruction are biological, chemical, or nuclear weapons.
  • Prohibition on financing certain activities: The Bill bars persons from financing any prohibited activity related to weapons of mass destruction and their delivery systems.

Power to Central Government :

  • To prevent persons from financing such activities, the central government may freeze, seize or attach their funds, financial assets, or economic resources (whether owned, held, or controlled directly or indirectly).
  • It may also prohibit persons from making finances or related services available for the benefit of other persons in relation to any activity which is prohibited.

Significance of the bill

  • More power to the government to act against terror funding: the central government may freeze, seize, or even attach a person's assets, financial assets, or economic resources to stop them from funding such actions
  • Funding: The existing Act was silent on the financing of such WMDs but this amendment has brought teeth to the Act.
  • Consistent with the norms of FATF: Recommendation 7 of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) requires all countries to ensure that financing for WMD-related activities must be prohibited.

Weapons of Mass Destruction

  • The Archbishop of Canterbury, the head of the Church of England, came up with the term "weapons of mass destruction" (WMD) in the year 1937 to refer to the German and Italian fascist bombings of Guernica.
  • International law does not have a single, definitive definition of a WMD, but the term is typically used to refer to nuclear, biological, and chemical (NBC) weapons.
  • WMDs are weapons with the capacity to inflict death and destruction on such a massive scale and so indiscriminately that their very presence in the hands of a hostile power can be considered a grievous threat.

Conventions to outlaw such WMDs:

The use of chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons is regulated by several international treaties and agreements.

Among them is the Geneva Protocol, 1925, which banned the use of chemical and biological weapons, while others are as follows:

Biological Weapons Convention (BWC):

  • The Biological Weapons Convention (BWC) effectively prohibits the development, production, acquisition, transfer, stockpiling, and use of biological and toxin weapons.
  • It was the first multilateral disarmament treaty banning an entire category of weapons of mass destruction (WMD).
  • The BWC is a key element in the international community’s efforts to address WMD proliferation and it has established a strong norm against biological weapons.
  • The Convention has reached almost universal membership with 184 States Parties and four Signatory States.

Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC):

  • After 12 years of negotiations, the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) was adopted by the Conference on Disarmament in Geneva on 3 September 1992.
  • The CWC allows for the stringent verification of compliance by State Parties.
  • The CWC opened for signature in Paris on 13 January 1993 and entered into force on 29 April 1997.
  • The CWC is the first disarmament agreement negotiated within a multilateral framework that provides for the elimination of an entire category of weapons of mass destruction under universally applied international control.

India is a signatory to both these conventions but is not a signatory to the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty and the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), as it considers these treaties to be discriminatory.

Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT):

  • It prevents the misuse of nuclear weapons and technology and prohibits the acceleration of the nuclear arms race.
  • The other goal of the treaty includes promoting cooperation in the peaceful use of nuclear energy and achieving complete nuclear disarmament.
  • India is one of only 5 nations that either did not sign the NTP or signed along with Pakistan Israel, North Korea, and South Sudan.

Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT):

  • The treaty bans the nuclear explosion by countries, worldwide.
  • The treaty was signed at the Geneva conference on disarmament and was approved by the United Nations General Assembly.
  • The treaty had been ratified by 35 countries except for China, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Egypt, India, Indonesia, Iran, Israel, Pakistan, and the United States.

Weapons of Mass Destruction and Asia and the Pacific

Many regional treaties have also come up to prohibit and control the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.

  • Treaty of Rarotonga (South Pacific Nuclear Free Zone Treaty, 1986),
  • Bangkok Treaty (Southeast Asian Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone Treaty, 1995), and
  • Central Asia Nuclear-Weapon-Free-Zone (2006).


Nuclear Supplier Group (NSG)

  • The 45-nation NSG is a cartel that controls trade in "dual-use" nuclear fuel, materials, and technology to ensure they are applied only to civilian nuclear energy programs, not diverted into clandestine nuclear weapons work.
  • NSG was created in 1974 as a result of India's 1974 Pokhran nuclear test under “Project Smiling Buddha”.
  • NSG policy has been to do business only with countries belonging to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, the only outsiders are India, Pakistan, and Israel, and permitting "full-scope" inspections by the UN nuclear watchdog.
  • Being a non-signatory to NPT, India is normally not to be considered for NSG membership.
  • Following the India-US civil nuclear deal of 2006, the US lobbied hard for an exception for India, citing the country's impeccable record.
  • China has steadfastly opposed India's inclusion in the NSG, citing the non-NPT status and being unwilling to make an exception.

Australian Group

  • The Australia Group (AG) is an informal forum of countries that, through the harmonization of export controls, seeks to ensure that exports do not contribute to the development of chemicals or biological weapons.
  • The formation of the Australia Group (AG) in 1985 was prompted by Iraq’s use of chemical weapons during the Iran-Iraq War (1980-1988).
  • The Australia Group has a list of 54 compounds that are identified to be regulated in global trade.
  • This list includes more items than the Chemical Weapons Convention.
  • It has 43 members (including the European Union). The members work on a consensus basis.
  • The annual meeting is held in Paris, France.
  • India joined the Australia Group (AG) on 19 January 2018.

Wassenaar Arrangement

  • The Wassenaar Arrangement is a voluntary export control regime.
  • The Arrangement, formally established in July 1996, has 42 members who exchange information on transfers of conventional weapons and dual-use goods and technologies.
  • Dual-use refers to the ability of a good or technology to be used for multiple purposes - usually peaceful and military.
  • It has 42 member states comprising mostly NATO and EU states.
  • India was inducted into the Wassenaar Arrangement on 7 December 2017 as the 42nd member.

Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR)

  • It is an informal and voluntary partnership among 35 countries to prevent the proliferation of missiles and unmanned aerial vehicle technology capable of carrying greater than 500 kg payload for more than 300 km.
  • The members are thus prohibited from supplying such missiles and UAV systems that are controlled by the MTCR to non-members.
  • The decisions are taken by consensus of all the members.
  • It was established in April 1987 by G-7 countries – USA, UK, France, Germany, Canada, Italy, and Japan.
  • India was inducted into the Missile Technology Control Regime in 2016 as the 35th member.

Hague Code of Conduct (HCoC)

  • The HCoC is a voluntary, legally non-binding international confidence-building and transparency measure that seeks to prevent the proliferation of ballistic missiles that are capable of delivering weapons of mass destruction.
  • India became a member of the group in 2016.

Other Organizations Controlling WMD

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)

  • It is an international organization that seeks to promote the peaceful use of nuclear energy and inhibits its use for any military purpose, including nuclear weapons.
  • The IAEA was established as an autonomous organization on 29 July 1957. Though established independently of the United Nation through its own international treaty, the IAEA Statute, the IAEA reports to both the United Nations General Assembly and the Security Council.
  • Headquarter in Vienna, the IAEA serves as an intergovernmental forum for scientific and technical cooperation on the peaceful use of nuclear technology and nuclear power worldwide.
  • The programs of the IAEA encourage the development of the peaceful applications of nuclear energy, science, and technology, provide international safeguards against misuse of nuclear technology and promote nuclear safety (including radiation protection) and nuclear security standards and their implementation.

The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW)

  • It is an international organization and the implementing body for the Chemical Weapon Convention (CWC), which entered into force on 29 April 1997.
  • The OPCW, with its 193 member states, and headquartered in Hague, Netherlands
  • It oversees the global endeavor for the permanent and verifiable elimination of Chemical weapons.
  • The organization was awarded the 2013 Nobel Peace Prize for its extensive efforts to eliminate chemical weapons.

The International Campaign to Abolish nuclear weapons (ICAN):

  • It is a global civil society coalition working to promote full implementation of the Treaty on Prohibition of nuclear weapons.
  • ICAN was launched in 2007 and counts 607 partner organizations in 106 countries as of 2021. It is headquartered in Geneva.
  • It was awarded the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize for its long-standing work to call attention to the catastrophic humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapon use.

Source: The Hindu

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