Use of Chemical Weapons by Terrorists Cause of Concern for International Community, says Bhashwati Mukharjee

August 07, 2014

New Delhi: The prospect of weapons of mass destruction, including chemical weapons in West Asia, falling into the hands of the terrorists is a cause of grave concern for the International community, stated Ambassador Bhaswati Mukharjee, former Permanent Representative of India to the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), today. Ambassador Mukharjee was delivering a lecture on ‘Emerging Challenges to Chemical Weapons Regime: A Case Study of Syria’ organised by the Institute for Defence Studies and Anlyses (IDSA) and the Indian Pugwash Society on August 7, 2014.

In her talk the ambassador outlined three major challenges to the chemical weapons regime: discovery of new arsenals in countries like Libya; the destruction of Syrian chemical weapons arsenal and the destruction of arsenals by countries like US and Russia.

The ongoing crisis in the Middle East is a cause of grave concern and poses a serious threats of chemical weapons falling into the wrong hands, warned the Ambassador.

She mentioned that the verification annex to the convention has been outdated and has not kept pace with the new scientific advances in chemical technology. In the present scenario, the amendment to the verification annex has proved to be politically difficult. Despite the recommendations of the scientific expert group, the review conference could not open the convention for review.

Additionally, she discussed why US and Russia could not complete the destruction of their arsenals within the stipulated timeline. She particularly highlighted the opposition from the local communities in the US to move the stockpile from various locations for destruction at the existing large facilities.

Delving further, into the Syrian crisis, Ambassador Mukharjee said that allegation of use of chemical weapons by Jihadis in Syria first emerged near Aleppo in Northern Syria in March 2013. The Ambassador also talked about the chemical weapons arsenal discovered in Libya and its possible use in Syria. She concluded that at this stage it is unclear as to who used chemical weapons in Aleppo since the international community shifted focus to destruction of Syrian chemical weapons.

The Ambassador responded to queries pertaining to the use of forensics in determining the chemical weapons use. She said that the forensics for chemical weapons is difficult since it is very easy to make chemical weapons unlike the nuclear weapons.