India’s Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) aims to end the use of chemical weapons by 2020, and the first step towards that goal is to ban the production, stockpiling, and use of toxic agents.
But as of today, India is still the only country in the world to not have signed the treaty.
This lack of progress comes after the World Health Organization (WHO) in 2015 recommended that India adopt a new set of chemical warfare weapons regulations, but that effort has been stalled in parliament.
In the meantime, the chemicals in question have not stopped being produced.
As India’s chemical weapons experts have warned, there are many unexploded, unexploded and abandoned chemical munitions (UXs) on the streets and in the streets of the country.
These unexploded munitions have been widely used in India’s ongoing wars in Kashmir and other parts of the north, including in the disputed region of Nagaland.
“There are a lot of unexploded UXs, in the Indian Army, the Indian Air Force, in Indian Army camps, and also in the pockets of the Maoists,” said a senior officer of a paramilitary group.
The unexploded bombs have also killed and injured civilians, who have often been forced to flee the area, while some of these unexploded mines have also been used in civilian areas.
While there is a legal framework for countries to ban UXs and other chemical weapons, India’s law is not so clear, and it is difficult to track and verify the destruction of UXs.
In addition, the law also allows for a “defence of public health” provision, which does not exist for most other chemicals banned in the treaty but is there for the sake of security.
“A lot of countries are taking it for granted that they can use these weapons, but we cannot rely on that,” said Dr M K Nair, a chemical weapons expert and senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.
“It’s a bit like having a gun and not using it,” Nair told The Diplomat.
The WHO also issued a call for a comprehensive strategy for eliminating UXs in 2016, and India has not responded.
In the meantime the country has been plagued by the spread of the deadly H1N1 coronavirus, which has claimed more than 4,000 lives across the country and killed over 300 people, including at least three children.
The government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi has also announced that it is going to bring back the death penalty for crimes involving chemical weapons and has ordered the deployment of military police in major cities to monitor the use and stockpiling of these weapons.
India’s chemical weapon programme is not new.
It was set up in 1999 under the then prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, and has been steadily expanding since then.
India has a relatively small population of 1.25 billion people, making it the largest of the 54 signatories of the treaty, which includes the US, China, France, the UK, Japan, Russia, the Netherlands, the European Union and Ukraine.
The treaty has been signed by countries like Australia, Canada, Canada and Mexico, which are also signatories, but the United States has not signed the convention.
India’s ratification has been controversial, particularly after a report in 2016 found that the country did not meet its legal obligations to comply with the treaty and had failed to adequately investigate the use or stockpiling.
While India has made great strides in eliminating toxic chemicals, there is still a long way to go in making the country’s chemical warfare arsenal safe, reliable, and efficient.
“The key challenge that we have is that India is one of the most fragile countries in the Middle East and Africa,” said Murtaza Akhtar, a senior fellow with the Carnegie Centre for International Policy and a member of the WHO’s chemical disarmament committee.
“If you think about the chemical weapons stockpile of countries like Iraq and Syria, the amount of weapons they have in the hands of their militias and insurgents, that’s huge, it’s enormous,” Akhtar said.
“We can’t go forward with a strategy to completely eradicate the weapons because the stockpiles and the stockpiling infrastructure is so large, it takes time to get rid of the stockpiled chemicals.”