Sunday, October 28, 2007

Chemical Imbalance

The electronic media is at it again. This time, its India's chemical weapons arsenal. One general statement from Army Chief Gen. Deepak Kapoor, and Vishal Thapar has created a story out of thin air. This is pure sensationalism, or worse. Not only is the story full of holes and mistakes, but the basic premise itself is a fallacy. Here's why.

This is the report on CNN-IBN. (Story link). The video is embedded below:

To say that the report is full of holes would be an understatement of monumental proportions. What Thapar has done is to take a single sentence of Gen. Kapoor, remove the context, add unreferenced information, add his own conclusions, all cooked with a good bit of mirch masala to create a news story thats frivolous at best.

Firstly, India's Treaty obligations that was referred to is the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC). Its administered by an independent body, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (homepage). Its heartening to note that unlike other treaties, this is almost universally accepted, and has been ratified by 182 states (see list), and signed by another six.

Now, lets be clear. India's cache of Chemical weapons is no secret, contrary to Thapar's assertion. After ratifying the CWC in 1997, India has diligently fulfilled all its treaty obligations, dismantled over 80% of its weapons, and is on course to complete disarmament by 2009. The 2006 Annual report of the OPCW states much the same thing. And it should be an indicator of the sagacity of our administrators that the Armed Forces were kept out of the loop, thus reducing the risk of a WMD escalation in the subcontinent. It was a wise decision and not a blot on India's strategic culture.

This is what the OPCW says about India's commitments:

India has received an extension to 28 April 2009 of the deadline by which it must destroy all of its Category 1 chemical weapons stockpiles India has already destroyed 80% of its category 1 CW stockpile as well as 100% of its declared Category 2 and 3 chemical weapons.
Under the treaty (Part VI, Verification Annex), states are allowed to produce upto 10 kg of Schedule I chemicals annually. Any production over 100 gms must be declared. It would be laughable to call this production an "arsenal". Such production serves the purpose of improving Chemical Weapon protection and understanding of the Physiological effects of these chemicals. If dear Mr. Thapar wishes that we cease even this critical production in an effort to better protect our soldiers and people, there is nothing to be said.

Another allegation that Thapar immaturely makes (without offering any substantiation) is that the Army continues to be doctrinally committed to Chemical Weapons. That is a very serious claim, but no further explanation is offered. Why is that? Is it because it is too embarrassing, is the source confidential, was there a lack of time, or was it simple because there wasn't any proof?

The only bit of the article (which is as flimsy as a bamboo hut in a hurricane) that Thapar didn't make up, misquote or fib was the single sentence of the CAS that he used as a keystone to build around. Analyzing what Gen. Kapoor said,
“The chemical weapons aspect is still in the domain of discussions going on at an international level,” Kapoor said.
This is vague, but its hard to see how its even close to the conclusion that Vishal Thapar has drawn. And it certainly wasn't forced out of the Chief's mouth, like Thapar claims. Most likely, the Army Chief was referring to the CWC treaty and the disarmament process. Either way, its hard to know the context of his reply unless the whole quote was included. Unfortunately, the reporter has deigned that objectivity unimportant compared to his expert "findings".

The best indicator of Vishal Thapar's intentions is this statement, inserted at the bottom of the report, and not included in the Video.
For the record, Pakistan has declared a zero stockpile.
Well, for the Record, India ratified the CWC seven months before Pakistan did (India ratified on 29th Apr 1997, while Pakistan ratified on 27th Nov 1997).

Its not unlike Vishal Thapar, who never misses an opportunity to cock a snook at the Defence Establishment, whether it be this report, or his previous one about the Missile tests. The smear campaign is not worth responding to, but the serious and fraudulent claims that he has made are. Hopefully the Army or MoD will come forward to rubbish this slander campaign.

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