Assessing Measures for India to Tackle Biowarfare Threats

Over the past century, weapons systems have evolved in concert with humankind’s understanding and mastery over the sciences – physics, chemistry and biology. Nuclear weapons, and other advanced weapons and delivery systems have brought far-flung targets closer. While debate of arms and potential disarmament rages on, biowarfare remains the one arena where most countries have signed up to not only disallow use, but even destroy their own arsenal1 . 

In a landmark announcement in 1969, the President of the United States, Richard Nixon, addressed the world with his intention to eliminate all existing US stockpiles of biological weapons2 . Major powers including UK3 and Russia4 followed suit under the auspices of the Biological Weapons Convention which came into force in 1975. No intentional use of bioweapons by a state has been known to occur since then. But does this stand to change with the advent of new gene editing technologies such as CRISPR which can potentially transform bioweapons from a weapon of mass destruction to a targeted killing system? 

This discussion document briefly studies the history and development of biological weapons, the impact of recent technological advances on the field, the Biological Weapons Convention and related treaties, and the threat of bioweapons to India and the means of strengthening bio-defence capabilities of India.

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