Nuclear, Chemical and Biological Disarmament


  • India and South Korea discussed developments in the areas of disarmament and non-proliferation relating to nuclear, chemical, and biological domains.

What is Disarmament?

  • Disarmament refers to the act of eliminating or abolishing weapons (particularly offensive arms) either unilaterally or reciprocally.
  • It may refer either to reducing the number of arms or to eliminating entire categories of weapons.

Nuclear Powers in the World

  • There are nine countries recognized as possessing nuclear weapons.
  • These countries are often referred to as “nuclear-armed states” or “nuclear powers.”
  • United States, Russia, China, United Kingdom, France, India, Pakistan, North Korea, and Israel.

Treaties Related to Nuclear Disarmament

  • Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT): Signed in 1968 and entered into force in 1970, the NPT aims to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons and promote disarmament.
  • It divides the world into nuclear-weapon states (NWS), recognized as possessing nuclear weapons at the time of the treaty’s signing, and non-nuclear-weapon states (NNWS), which agree not to develop or acquire nuclear weapons.
  • The treaty also requires NWS to pursue disarmament negotiations in good faith.
  • Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW): Adopted by the United Nations in 2017 and opened for signature in 2018, the TPNW aims to prohibit the development, testing, production, stockpiling, stationing, transfer, use, and threat of use of nuclear weapons.
  • It represents a significant step towards nuclear disarmament, although it has not been signed by nuclear-armed states.
  • Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT): Opened for signature in 1996, the CTBT aims to ban all nuclear explosions for both civilian and military purposes.
  • While the treaty has been signed by 185 countries and ratified by 170, it has not entered into force as nuclear-armed states must ratify it to become operational.
  • Outer Space Treaty: This multilateral agreement entered into force in 1967 and bans the siting of weapons of mass destruction in space.
  • All nine states believed to have nuclear weapons are parties to this treaty.

Treaties Related to Chemical Disarmament

  • Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC): It is a multilateral treaty that bans chemical weapons and requires their destruction within a specified period.
  • CWC is implemented by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW).
  • CWC currently has 193 state parties. Israel has signed but has yet to ratify the convention. Three states have neither signed nor ratified the convention (Egypt, North Korea, and South Sudan).

Treaties Related to Biological Disarmament

  • Biological Weapons Convention, 1972: The Biological Weapons Convention (BWC) effectively prohibits the development, production, acquisition, transfer, stockpiling, and use of biological and toxin weapons.
  • It was the first multilateral disarmament treaty banning an entire category of weapons of mass destruction (WMD).

Arguments in Favour of Disarmament

  • Humanitarian Concerns: The weapons possess unparalleled destructive power, capable of causing immense loss of life, widespread devastation, and long-term environmental damage.
  • Global Security: The proliferation of these weapons increases the likelihood of their use, whether intentionally or accidentally, leading to catastrophic consequences for humanity.
  • Economic Benefits: Funds can be redirected from weapons towards more constructive purposes to improve overall well-being.
  • Ethical and Moral Imperatives: Eliminating nuclear weapons is viewed as a moral imperative and a step towards building a more peaceful and just world.
  • Environment Pollution: The weapon testing and potential use can have devastating environmental consequences.

Arguments Against Disarmament

  • Deterrence: Possessing these weapons serves as a powerful deterrent against potential adversaries, preventing conflicts and maintaining strategic stability.
  • National Security: It provides a form of insurance against potential threats and enhances the ability to protect the interests and sovereignty of a country in an uncertain international environment.
  • Verification and Compliance: Critics argue that without robust verification mechanisms and effective enforcement measures, countries may exploit disarmament agreements for strategic advantage.
  • Geopolitical Realities: Deep-rooted mistrust, unresolved conflicts, and strategic competition among states make it difficult to envision a scenario in which all countries would willingly and simultaneously relinquish their weapons.

Way Ahead

  • Disarmament is seen as a crucial step towards reducing the risks and promoting international peace and stability.
  • While achieving complete Disarmament may be a long-term objective, incremental progress can still be made through concerted international efforts and cooperation.
  • It requires sustained commitment from all nations to work towards a world free of nuclear weapons, ensuring the security and well-being of future generations.
India’s Nuclear Weapon Program

– Smiling Buddha: In 1974, India conducted its first nuclear test code-named “Smiling Buddha, and since then, it has developed a nuclear triad consisting of land-based, sea-based, and air-based delivery systems.

– Operation Shakti: In 1998, India conducted a series of nuclear tests at Pokhran, codenamed “Operation Shakti.”

a. These tests included both fission and fusion devices and marked India’s formal entry into the nuclear weapons club.

– International Criticism: The international community has criticized India’s nuclear weapons program, particularly the United States and its allies.

– No First Use: India has a “no first use” policy, meaning it pledges not to use nuclear weapons first in a conflict but reserves the right to retaliate if attacked with nuclear weapons.

India’s stance on nuclear disarmament?

– India has argued that any country’s possession of nuclear weapons poses a threat to global security and that the only way to ensure peace and stability is for all nuclear weapons to be destroyed.

– India is not a signatory to the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), and stated that the NPT is discriminatory and perpetuates a two-tiered system of nuclear haves and have-nots by unfairly restricting access to peaceful nuclear technology for non-nuclear weapon states.

– National Security: India’s nuclear weapons program is a legitimate expression of its national sovereignty, and India has the right to defend itself against potential threats.

a. India’s nuclear disarmament and nonproliferation policy is complex and nuanced, reflecting the country’s desire for security and recognition, as well as its commitment to global disarmament and non-proliferation.