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India at UNSC backs convention prohibiting biological weapons

Published: 21st Mar, 2022


India at the United Nations Security Council meet raised concerns over the use of biological weapons in Ukraine amid reports of Russia's charge against US.


What are Biological Weapons?

  • Biological weapons are microorganisms like virus, bacteria, fungi, or other toxins that are produced and released deliberately to cause disease and death in humans, animals or plants. 
    • Biological agents, like anthrax, botulinum toxin and plague can pose a difficult public health challenge causing large numbers of deaths in a short amount of time while being difficult to contain.
  • Bioterrorism attacks could also result in an epidemic, for example if Ebola or Lassa viruses were used as the biological agents.

Chemical Weapons:

  • A Chemical Weapon is a chemical used to cause intentional death or harm through its toxic properties.
  • Munitions, devices and other equipment specifically designed to weaponize toxic chemicals also fall under the definition of chemical weapons.

About Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention (BTWC):

  • The Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention (BTWC) was the first multilateral treaty categorically banning a class of weapon.
  • Came into force in 1975 and the Convention was negotiated by the Conference of the Committee on Disarmament in Geneva, Switzerland.
  • Aim:
  • The treaty prohibits the development, stockpile, production, or transfer of biological agents and toxins of “types and quantities” that have no justification for protective or peaceful use.
  • Furthermore, the treaty bans the development of weapons, equipment, or delivery systems to disseminate such agents or toxins. 
  • Signatories:
  • It has 183 signatories, including the United States, Russia, and Ukraine.
  • India has signed and ratified this convention.
  • Significance:
  • 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.
  • A total of eight Review Conferences have taken place since the first one in 1980.

Recent conflict/allegations:

  • Moscow claimed that its invading forces had discovered evidence of an “emergency clean-up” to hide the programme.
  • Moscow went on to claim that it had found documents related to the secret US operation in laboratories in the Ukrainian cities of Kharkiv and Poltava.
  • The allegations were quickly amplified by China, which supported the claims.
  • Both the US and Ukraine have categorically denied that they are developing any biological weapons inside the country. 

India’s stand:

  • During a briefing to the United Nations Security Council, India emphasised the importance of the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention (BTWC), which came into force in 1975, as a key global and non-discriminatory disarmament treaty that prohibits an entire category of weapons of mass destruction.
  • India urged that the BTWC be fully implemented in “letter and spirit.”
  • India believes that any matters relating to obligations under the BTWC should be addressed as per the provision of the Convention and through consultation and cooperation between the parties concerned.
  • India reiterated that it remains deeply concerned at the progressively deteriorating situation in Ukraine.
  • India focused on need to undertake engagements keeping in mind the need to respect the principles of the UN Charter, international law and sovereignty and territorial integrity of States.

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