Real Threats

India is developing sophisticated CBRN defence technologies to be prepared in case of an eventuality

Younis Ahmad Kaloo

The rising tensions between India, Pakistan and China due to various lingering issues throw up some serious concerns, which the top leadership of the country also seem to acknowledge. The biggest and the worst of them all is the possibility of a nuclear war. The Chief of Army Staff General Bipin Rawat shared the same concern at the inauguration of a workshop in New Delhi earlier this year. He said, “Chemical, biological, radiological, or nuclear (CBRN) threat is becoming a reality.” Earlier, the standing committee on defence report (2016-2017) also said that there has been an increasing threat of non-conventional war, involving nuclear, biological and chemical weapons.

India is developing sophisticated CBRN defence technologies to be prepared in case of an eventuality

According to a report ‘Worldwide deployments of nuclear weapons, 2017’ published in the Bulletin of The Atomic Scientists, Pakistan has a rapidly expanding nuclear arsenal of 130–140 warheads and an increasing portfolio of delivery systems, which it stores at nine locations. About India’s nuclear arsenal, the report says that the country has 120–130 nuclear warheads stored at least at five different locations.

India and Pakistan have signed an agreement prohibiting attack on each other’s nuclear installations, however, as observed by the standing committee on external affairs in a report ‘Indo-Pak relations’ submitted on 11 August 2017, the nuclear doctrines of the two countries are contradictory. The report says that while India follows the ‘no first use of nuclear weapons’ policy, Pakistan does not.

This brings home the need for preparedness of CBRN war.

On the preparedness for CBRN war, the standing committee on defence was informed in 2017 that there had been no experience with regard to CBRN warfare till date. The committee, however, was informed that a training module had been started in this regard and preparation for it was going on. The training curriculum, as submitted by the ministry of defence (MoD) to the committee, is designed to assist armed forces medical services to improve their emergency preparedness and response arrangement, complement national training systems and improve co-operation between first responders of armed forces, paramilitary forces and civil administration. The main features of the design of the training module include, inter alia, adaptable and flexible to accommodate different emergency management structures within the country; modular and focussed on key functions of the immediate or short-term elements of the medical response; dynamic to incorporate best practices and lessons learnt; standardisation and uniformity in the training curriculum of CBRN training at various training establishments; correct selection of course participants for basic orientation course, training the trainers course for rapid capacity building and refresher course; integration of civil-military CBRN training.

On the development and procurement front of the necessary CBRN equipment and technologies, India has developed various products, some of which have already been inducted. As brought out by Director General (Life Sciences) Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), Dr Shashi Bala Singh at a DRDO-conducted workshop and exhibition on CBRN Defence Technologies in New Delhi in January this year, more than 68 products related to CBRN developed by DRDO stand already inducted and 25 more have been realised and ready for induction. She credited it to the large participation of private sector. In March 2016, to augment the existing capabilities as well as create new, DRDO released expression of interest (EoI) for the potential industry partners for joint development and/or production of the CBRN equipment.

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