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Key Takeaways

  • The Weapons of Mass Destruction and Their Delivery Systems (Prohibition of Unlawful Activities) Act was implemented by the Indian Parliament in 2005 as unique legislation dealing with and regulating weapons of mass destruction.
  • The Lok Sabha passed the Weapons of Mass Destruction and their Delivery Systems (Prohibition of Unlawful Activities) Amendment Bill, 2022 to amend the Weapons of Mass Destruction and their Delivery Systems (Prohibition of Unlawful Activities) Act, 2005.
  • The Bill proposes to modify the 2005 Act, to prohibit funding of the spread of weapons of mass destruction and their delivery systems, in accordance with India's international commitments.

Introduction

The spread of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and their delivery methods might have far-reaching implications for national, regional, and global security. The possible consequences of these weapons, which include nuclear devices, radioactive material, biological pathogens, and chemicals are tenfold. Controlling the proliferation of nuclear weapons as well as other weapons of mass destruction, and their missile delivery systems is a crucial issue for governments. Arms control can help decrease the incentives to launch an attack, improve predictability in terms of force size and structure, reduce fear of aggressive intent, ensure compliance through efficient monitoring and verification, and, eventually, make a contribution to a more steady and computable balance of power.

India has produced weapons of mass destruction in the form of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons, and it is reported that it presently possesses nuclear weapons. India has ratified both the Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production, Stockpiling, and Use of Chemical Weapons (Chemical Weapons Convention or CWC) and the Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production, Stockpiling, and Use of Bacteriological (Biological) and Toxin Weapons (Bacterial Weapons Convention or BWC). It has, however, not signed the treaties governing the use and proliferation of nuclear weapons (which includes NPT and CTBT)

The Weapons of Mass Destruction and Their Delivery Systems (Prohibition of Unlawful Activities) Act was implemented by the Indian Parliament as unique legislation dealing with and regulating weapons of mass destruction. The bill was passed in June 2005.

The Lok Sabha passed the Weapons of Mass Destruction and their Delivery Systems (Prohibition of Unlawful Activities) Amendment Bill, 2022 on April 5th 2022to amend the Weapons of Mass Destruction and their Delivery Systems (Prohibition of Unlawful Activities) Act, 2005.

What Constitutes Weapons of Mass Destruction?

A weapon of mass destruction (WMD) is anything that may cause mass fatalities and devastate nations. Originally used to describe aerial bombardment using chemical explosives during World War II, the term has now evolved to apply to the large-scale armament of warfare-related technology. The United States is the only country to have used nuclear weapons in combat, dropping two atomic bombs on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in World War II.Only five of the eight nations that have claimed nuclear weapons possession and are confirmed to have tested nuclear weapons are NPT members. China, France, India, North Korea, Pakistan, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States are the eight countries.

WMDs may bring havoc in four ways: chemically, biologically, nuclear, and radiologically. According to Section 4(p) of the WMD Act, a weapon of mass destruction is a type of armament that encompasses nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons. WMDs are weapons that are very lethal and have the potential to destroy a large percentage of the globe.

Weapons of Mass Destruction and their Delivery Systems (Prohibition of Unlawful Activities) Act, 2005

The Act, which was adopted in June 2005, provides for comprehensive laws outlawing illicit actions involving weapons of mass destruction, their delivery systems, and related materials, equipment, and technology. It forbids anybody who is not legally authorized by the Central Government from dealing with weapons of mass destruction and their delivery systems. It also ensures India's commitment to nuclear sovereignty and the safeguarding of such weapons from non-state actors like terrorists.

Section 3 of the Act addresses the Act's territorial reach and scope. The WMD Act is applicable across the territory of India, including the country's Exclusive Economic Zones. A person who commits an offense under this Act outside the borders of India would be prosecuted in accordance with the provisions of the WMD Act, as if the violation had occurred within the nation.

The Act gives legal sanction and support to control matters connected to material, technology, equipment, and delivery systems exports. The Act specifically prohibits:

  • The unlawful creation, purchase, possession, development, and transit of a nuclear explosive device or a nuclear weapon, as well as their methods of delivery (Section 8(1)).
  • Unlawful transfer (directly or indirectly) of a nuclear weapon or other nuclear explosive devices to any person, or transfer of control over such a weapon (Section 8(2)).
  • Unlawful production, purchase, possession, development, or transportation of a chemical or biological weapon or its delivery system. Unlawful delivery of chemical or biological weapons to anybody (Sections 8(3) & (4)).
  • Unlawful transferring of missiles particularly prepared for the delivery of weapons of mass devastation to anybody (Section 8(5)). In the context of the preceding, the transfer ban applies to terrorists or non-state actors.
  • Transferring weapons of mass destruction, missiles expressly tailored for their delivery, and WMD-usable materials, equipment, and technology; or transferring fissile or radioactive material for use in terrorist actions is a serious criminal offence under the Act (Sections 8 & 9). The Act also makes it illegal to transfer, acquire, possess, or transport fissile or radioactive material for use in terrorist actions.

The 2022 Amendment Bill

The Bill proposes to modify the Weapons of Mass Destruction and Their Delivery Systems (Prohibition of Unlawful Activities) Act, 2005, to prohibit funding of the spread of weapons of mass destruction and their delivery systems, in accordance with India's international commitments. The Bill prohibits anybody from financing any banned activity involving weapons of mass destruction or their delivery systems. The central government may freeze, confiscate, or attach monies, financial assets, or economic means to prohibit people from financing such actions. It may also restrict people from making funds or associated services accessible for the advantage of others in regard to any unlawful action.

According to the Bill's Statement of Objects and Reasons, the need to amend the Act arose because "in recent times, regulations relating to the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and their delivery systems by international organizations have expanded," and "the United Nations Security Council's targeted financial sanctions and the Financial Action Task Force recommendations have mandated against the financing of proliferation of weapons of mass destruction."

As relevant international bodies such as the Financial Action Task Force expanded the scope of targeted financial sanctions and requested tighter controls on the funding of WMD operations, India's domestic law has been harmonized to meet international standards.Technical advancements have caused new issues to have arisen that have not been appropriately addressed by current regulations. These include drone advancements as well as unauthorized work in biological laboratories that might be utilized for terrorist objectives. As a consequence, the Amendment adapts to new threats. Domestic laws and international treaties dealing with WMD security, in fact, cannot afford to become antiquated. They must be adaptive and adaptable to the evolving strategies of non-state actors.

The Amendment broadens the criteria to encompass the prohibition of any conduct sponsoring weapons of mass destruction or their delivery systems. To prohibit such financing, the central government will have the authority to freeze, seize, or attach funds, financial assets, or economic resources of suspicious individuals. It also prohibits anyone from giving money or other assistance to others who engage in such behavior. Among the primary activities controlled and governed by the provisions of this Act are exports, conversions and re-transfers, and transportation of technology, materials, or equipment as authorized and approved by the Central Government.

Any person who violates, or attempts to violate or aids in the violation of the provisions of sections 8 or 10 of this Act is to be punished by imprisonment for a term not less than five years, but which may be extended to life imprisonment, as well as a fine.

The Way Forward

The responsible non-proliferation behavior and activities of India are widely recognized. It has a strong statutory national export control system that includes controls for transit and trans-shipment, retransfer, transfer of technology, brokering, and end-use regulations.

This Amendment will need to be implemented on a national level through proper engagement with the industry as well as other stakeholders to ensure that they understand their new obligations. India's outreach attempts under the WMD Act have involved both regional and sector-specific hurdles.India must retain a global focus on WMD security. It is not an alternative to becoming complacent. To avoid weak spots in the global control network, even countries that do not possess WMD technologies must be made aware of their place within the control framework.

India recognizes the importance of increased international collaboration and the development of peaceful applications of science and technology through technology transfer, information sharing, and the interchange of equipment and materials. India can even assist other nations in developing federal laws, institutions, and regulatory frameworks through the IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) or on a reciprocal basis.

Conclusion

Domestic monitoring and control of weapons of mass destruction, including biological, chemical, and nuclear weapons, as well as other associated explosive and radioactive devices, can be agreed upon definitively, and a thorough list of all operations that should be forbidden is essential. At the same time, it should be noted that various other laws exist to deal with comparable scenarios, and the WMD Act, of 2005 does not act in isolation. The current bill gives the government additional powers to combat terror funding and updates a 17-year-old statute to remedy its flaws. It is a step in the right direction towards efficient regulation and proliferation of arms.


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