The Romans believed that war was to be waged with weapons, not with poison. The notion has gained moral authority in the warfare over the period of times. Modern efforts to ban chemical weapons dates back to the Brussels Declaration (1874), which prohibited the use of poisons and poisoned bullets in warfare. However, the serious efforts were made after world war two when the figure of human losses crossed 43.5 million dead, coupled with the drop of nuclear bomb by United States over Japan.
War ethics and principles of armed conflict were then sincerely debated to restore the dignity of humans. However, till date not all nations have been willing to cooperate with disclosing or demilitarizing their inventory of chemical weapons.
In July 2017 Foreign Office Spokesperson Nafees Zakria accused India of “using ammunition containing chemical agents and precursors to kill Kashmiri youth and destroy Kashmiris’ properties” He said charred bodies of Kashmiri youth were found in the debris of five houses destroyed by the Indian forces at Bahmnoo and Kakpora in Pulwama. “The bodies were so extensively burnt that they were beyond visual recognition”. One owner of the house, Mr. Kifayat Ahmad, also included was suspected of chemical attack, as FO spokesperson said.
On December 11, 2017, while addressing a seminar on the occasion of International Human Rights Day organised by the Kashmir Liberation Cell, President of Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) Sardar Masood Khan has blamed India for using chemical weapons against innocent civilians of Kashmir under their control in Anantnag and Pulwama.
Dr. Maleeha Lodhi, had also pointed out the danger in 2001, in her article “Security Challenges in South Asia” published in The Nonproliferation Review. She said, “While both India and Pakistan committed not to produce chemical weapons under a joint declaration in August 1992, India continued to manufacture chemical weapons in violation of this declaration. This was disclosed only in early 1997, months after India’s ratification of the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) in September 1996.”
Chemical weapons are considered to be inhumane by most nations, governments and organizations undertook to locate and destroy existing chemical weapons. The international community continued to seek a total ban on chemical weapons. In 1948, the UN Commission for Conventional Armaments defined chemical and bacteriological weapons as weapons of mass destruction.
While applying little knowledge which I have about chemical weapons and carefully reading all the details and statements of influential individuals in relation to use of “Chemical Weapons” in Indian occupied Kashmir, I am view of that Indian security forces are not using chemical weapons but “incendiary weapons” as anti-personnel weaponry against Kashmirs. Such an act is grossly inhuman and unlawful as per UN conventions and International law.
Incendiary weapons, or incendiary bombs are designed to start fire or destroy sensitive equipment using fire. Though colloquially often known as bombs, they are not explosives but in fact use ignition rather than detonation to start and or maintain the chemical reaction. Napalm for example, is petroleum especially thickened with certain chemicals into a ‘gel’ to slow, but not stop, combustion, releasing energy over a longer time than an explosive device. Modern incendiary bombs usually contain thermite, made from aluminium and ferric oxide. It takes very high temperatures to ignite, but when alight, it can burn through solid steel.
Using these devices against humans is absolutely obnoxious. Protocol III of the UN Convention on Conventional Weapons prohibits the use of incendiary weapons against civilians. Additional Protocol I to the Geneva Conventions even prohibits the use of air-delivered incendiary weapons against military targets located within concentrations of civilians.
Modern chemical weapons were introduced during World War I in an effort to reduce the deadlock of trench warfare. However, due to advancement in technology, the munitions have become more precise, and tactical advantage of chemical or incendiary weapons is eroded. Today, chemical or incendiary weapons horrify like anthrax more than they contribute to victories on the ground. These are being used in Indian administered Kashmir to create fear and weaken their “will to resist occupation”.
The new situation is at best “not normal” and Pakistan may also resort to manufacture of new deadly incendiary or chemical weapons in pursuit of Indian parity like development of nuclear weapons. Interest of other countries like North Korea and Iran cannot be ruled out. This would be a deadly arm race which would endanger international peace in general and people of South Asia in particular. Therefore, I second Dr. Maleha Lodhi’ who says, “The two countries should aim to immediately resume foreign secretary-level talks [on chemical weapons], following which a bilateral standing committee of experts could be set up to explore further steps and measures towards stabilizing the nuclear environment in South Asia.”
*The author, Atta Rasool Malik, hails from semi-tribal areas of Pakistan. He is a veteran and holds M Phil degree in ‘International Relations’ from National Defence University, Islamabad. His interest includes politics of South Asia and Islamic and Jewish theology.