Nuclear Diplomacy and Disarmament

What are Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)?


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: WMD

Mains level: Nuclear Non-Proliferation

The Weapons of Mass Destruction and their Delivery Systems (Prohibition of Unlawful Activities) Amendment Bill, 2022 has been unanimously passed in Lok Sabha.

WMD Bill

  • The Bill seeks to amend The Weapons of Mass Destruction and their Delivery Systems (Prohibition of Unlawful Activities) Act, 2005.
  • It aims to provide against the financing of proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and their delivery systems in line with India’s international obligations.
  • The 2005 Act prohibited the manufacturing, transport, and transfer of weapons of mass destruction, and their means of delivery.

Need for the Bill

  • In recent times, regulations relating to proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and their delivery systems by international organisations have expanded.
  • The UNSCs targeted financial sanctions and the recommendations of the Financial Action Task Force have mandated against financing of proliferation of WMD and their their delivery systems.

Weapons of Mass Destruction

  • The expression “weapon of mass destruction” (WMD) is usually considered to have been used first by the leader of the Church of England, the Archbishop of Canterbury, in 1937.
  • They usually refer to the aerial bombing of civilians in the Basque town of Guernica by German and Italian fascists in support of General Franco during the Spanish Civil War.
  • The expression WMD entered the vocabularies of people and countries around the world in the early 2000s after the US under President George W Bush and the UK under PM Tony Blair justified the invasion of Iraq.
  • They invaded Iraq on the grounds that the government of Saddam Hussain was hiding these weapons in the country. However, no WMDs were ever found.

What are NBC weapons?

  • While there is no single, authoritative definition of a WMD in international law, the expression is usually understood to cover nuclear, biological, and chemical (NBC) weapons.
  • WMD can be any nuclear, radiological, chemical, biological, or other device that is intended to harm a large number of people.

India’s 2005 WMD Act defines-

  1. Biological Weapons” as “microbial or other biological agents, or toxins…of types and in quantities that have no justification for prophylactic, protective or other peaceful purposes; and weapons, equipment or delivery systems specially designed to use such agents or toxins for hostile purposes or in armed conflict”; and
  2. Chemical Weapons” as “toxic chemicals and their precursors” except where used for peaceful, protective, and certain specified military and law enforcement purposes; “munitions and devices specifically designed to cause death or other harm through the toxic properties of those toxic chemicals”; and any equipment specifically designed for use in connection with the employment of these munitions and devices.

Control over use of WMDs

  • The use of chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons is regulated by a number of international treaties and agreements.
  • Among them are the Geneva Protocol, 1925, that banned the use of chemical and biological weapons; and the Biological Weapons Convention, 1972, and Chemical Weapons Convention, 1992, which put comprehensive bans on the biological and chemical weapons respectively.
  • India has signed and ratified both the 1972 and 1992 treaties.
  • There are very few non-signatory countries to these treaties, even though several countries have been accused of non-compliance.
  • The use and proliferation of nuclear weapons is regulated by treaties such as Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT).


Nuclear Security Contact Group

  • The NSCG was established in 2016.
  • The NSCG or “Contact Group” has been established with the aim of facilitating cooperation and sustaining engagement on nuclear security after the conclusion of the Nuclear Security Summit process.
  • The Contact Group is tasked with:
  1. Convening annually on the margins of the General Conference of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), and, as may be useful, in connection with other related meetings
  2. Discussing a broad range of nuclear security-related issues, including identifying emerging trends that may require more focused attention

Nuclear Suppliers Group

  • NSG is a group of nuclear supplier countries that seeks to contribute to the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons through the implementation of guidelines for nuclear exports and nuclear-related exports.
  • The NSG was set up as a response to India’s nuclear tests conducted in 1974.
  • The aim of the NSG is to ensure that nuclear trade for peaceful purposes does not contribute to the proliferation of nuclear weapons.

Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty

  • CTBT was negotiated at the Conference on Disarmament in Geneva and adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 1996.
  • The Treaty intends to ban all nuclear explosions – everywhere, by everyone.
  • It was opened for signature in 1996 and since then 182 countries have signed the Treaty, most recently Ghana has ratified the treaty in 2011.

Fissile material cut-off treaty

  • FMCT is a proposed international agreement that would prohibit the production of the two main components of nuclear weapons: highly-enriched uranium (HEU) and plutonium.
  • Discussions on this subject have taken place at the UN Conference on Disarmament (CD), a body of 65 member nations established as the sole multilateral negotiating forum on disarmament.
  • The CD operates by consensus and is often stagnant, impeding progress on an FMCT.
  • Those nations that joined the nuclear NPT as non-weapon states are already prohibited from producing or acquiring fissile material for weapons.
  • An FMCT would provide new restrictions for the five recognized nuclear weapon states (NWS—United States, Russia, United Kingdom, France, and China), and for the four nations that are not NPT members (Israel, India, Pakistan, and North Korea).


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