What are weapons of mass destruction?

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The Bill seeks to amend the Weapons of Mass Destruction and their Delivery Devices (Prohibition of Unlawful Activities) Act 2005 to address the financing of the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and their means of delivery in accordance with the international obligations of the ‘India.

The 2005 law prohibits the manufacture, transport and transfer of weapons of mass destruction and their means of delivery.

According to the statement of the objects and motives of the bill, the need for amending the law arose from the fact that “in recent times, the regulations relating to the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and their means of delivery by international organizations are are developed”, and “The targeted financial sanctions of the United Nations Security Council and the recommendations of the Financial Action Task Force have the mandate to oppose the financing of the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and their means of delivery”.

Weapons of mass destruction

The phrase “weapon of mass destruction” (WMD) is generally considered to have been first used by the head of the Church of England, the Archbishop of Canterbury, in 1937 to refer to the aerial bombardment of civilians in the Basque town of Guernica by German and Italian Fascists in support of General Franco during the Spanish Civil War.

The phrase WMD entered the vocabulary of people and countries around the world in the early 2000s after the United States under President George W Bush and the United Kingdom under Prime Minister Tony Blair justified the invasion of Iraq on the grounds that the government of Saddam Hussein was hiding these weapons in the country. No ADM was ever found.

NBC Weapons

Although there is no single, authoritative definition of a WMD in international law, the term is generally understood to cover nuclear, biological and chemical (NBC) weapons. According to the United States Department of Homeland Security, “a weapon of mass destruction is a nuclear, radiological, chemical, biological, or other device intended to harm large numbers of people.”

The Indian Weapons of Mass Destruction Act 2005 defines:

* “Biological weapons” as “microbial or other biological agents, or toxins…of types and in quantities which have no justification for prophylactic, protective or other peaceful purposes; and weapons, equipment or means of delivery specially designed to use such agents or toxins for hostile purposes or in armed conflict”; and

* “Chemical weapons” as “toxic chemicals and their precursors”, except when used for peaceful, protective and certain military and law enforcement purposes; “munitions and devices specifically designed to cause death or other harm by the toxic properties of those toxic chemicals”; and any equipment specially designed for use in connection with the employment of such ammunition and devices.

Monitoring ADM usage

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

Among them are the Geneva Protocol of 1925, which prohibited the use of chemical and biological weapons; and the Biological Weapons Convention of 1972 and the Chemical Weapons Convention of 1992, which prohibit biological and chemical weapons respectively.

India has signed and ratified the 1972 and 1992 treaties. There are very few countries that are not signatories to these treaties, although several countries have been accused of non-compliance.

The use and proliferation of nuclear weapons are governed by treaties such as the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) and the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT).

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