India destroys its chemical weapons stockpile

By Ritu Sharma, IANS,

New Delhi : India has informed the United Nations that it has destroyed its stockpile of chemical weapons in compliance with the international Chemical Weapons Convention. With this India has become third country after South Korea and Albania to do so.

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The government notified the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) on March 26 of the fulfilment of its obligations to “completely destroy” its declared chemical weapons stockpile.

“The OPCW inspectors finalised all necessary on-site activities to allow termination of systematic verification of destruction, and ceased their physical presence at the facility as of the end of March 2009,” Michael Luhan, OPCW’s head of Media and Public Affairs, told IANS in an e-mail from The Hague in The Netherlands, where the regulator is based.

“In addition, our inspectors confirmed the completion of destruction of the former chemical weapons production facility, which had been temporarily converted for chemical weapons destruction purposes,” he added.

After denying the possession of chemical weapons for years, India in June 1997 declared a stockpile of 1,044 tonnes of sulphur mustard. At that time, less than two percent of the chemical was filled into artillery shells and the remainder was stored in bulk containers.

India’s declaration came after the entry into force of the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) that created the OPCW. On Jan 14, 1993 India become an original signatory to the CWC.

Applauding India’s compliance to the international convention the OPCW Director-General Rogelio Pfirter said during the opening of the 56th Session of the OPCW on April 21: “A key result achieved (in the area of chemical disarmament) during the last three months is… the fulfilment by India of its obligations to completely destroy its declared chemical weapons stockpile. On 26 March 2009, India notified the Technical Secretariat accordingly.”

“I wish to sincerely, warmly, and emphatically congratulate India on this laudable achievement, which is the result of a consistent and unwavering commitment shown by India since entry into force of the Convention. This attainment further strengthens the Convention as an effective instrument for promoting the objectives of peace and security,” Pfirter said.

The Chemical Weapons Convention divides toxic chemicals and precursors that could be used as chemical weapons or that could be used in the manufacture of chemical weapons into three categories.

Category one comprises chemicals that have been used as weapons in the past and/or have very few or no peaceful uses, and thus pose the most direct threat to the convention.

Category two chemicals are primarily precursors to category one chemicals, and most have some industrial uses.

Chemicals in the third category are produced in large quantities commercially but in some cases were used as chemical warfare agents and can also serve as precursors to category one or two chemicals.

Giving details of the elimination process, CBW Magazine published by Indian defence ministry funded think tank Institute of Defence Studies and Analyses, said that by 1999, India destroyed one percent of its stockpile to meet the CWC’s phase one requirements.

Phase two of the convention required the destruction of 20 percent of the stockpile by April 2002. By November 2003, India had destroyed 45 percent of its declared category, one stockpile six months ahead of schedule.

And in January 2008 the government declared it had destroyed over 75 percent of its chemical weapons stockpile and reiterated its commitment to eliminate the balance by 2009.