India Capable of Tackling Chemical-Biological Threats, Says Rajnath after Visit to Gwalior Defence Facility

Gwalior: Defence Minister Rajnath Singh on Friday said the country’s armed forces must be properly trained and equipped to combat chemical-biological threats as early detection was a prerequisite for successful protection and decontamination.

Addressing scientists at a Defence Research and Development Establishment (DRDE) function here, Singh said the country’s forces are deployed in many regions where adversaries may use such weapons.

"Use of chemical-biological weapons may jeopardise life, health, property and commerce in a way that it may take a long time to recover. Our forces must be properly trained and equipped to operate effectively and decisively in the face of chemical-biological attacks," he said. Early detection of chemical-biological agents is the prerequisite for successful protection and decontamination, he added.

Lauding the defence organisation for 45 years of glorious service, Singh said, “I am pleased to know that DRDE has developed several technologies for detection, protection and decontamination of toxic agents.”

He said DRDE has made several accomplishments in its field, but he can't speak about them publically, while stating that earlier he had concerns about possible chemical or biological attacks on the country, but post the visit to the facility, he was relieved.

“I was impressed that DRDE has been recognised as the only national laboratory by Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) as part of an international network of designated laboratories for verification of environmental and bio-medical samples," Singh said.

This allows DRDE to undertake forensic and off-site investigations of use of chemical warfare agents and their victims, he said. "This provides India an edge at the international level and opportunity to play a decisive role in proving compliance of international treaty in case of any eventuality," Singh added.

He said the DRDE must also focus on facilitating the industrial base to meet substantial requirement of materials and equipment as chemical-bio agents have high impact on human health and psychology and are highly resource intensive.

The defence minister said while the armed forces play an important role in securing the nation, scientists working in defence organisations were in an equally important role in strengthening the country's security.

The DRDE officials also raised an issue of shifting commercial and government buildings in 200m periphery of the establishment as ordered by the high court. Singh said a proposal in this regard was pending before the state cabinet and once the cabinet gives approval for land allotment, adequate steps would be taken in this regard to ensure minimum damage of nearby buildings in case of an emergency.

Recently, while speaking at the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation's First Military Medicine Conference, Singh had described bioterrorism as a "contagious plague" and underlined the importance of building capabilities to deal with the menace. The armed forces and its medical services have to be at the forefront of combating this menace, he had said.

(With inputs from PTI)