CBRNe Protection Scenario in India
After the Pokharan-II nuclear test in 1998, which demonstrated a belligerent posturing by Pakistan, the Kargil conflict in 1999, awareness increased towards systematic preparation of a defence mechanism against Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMDs). Some DRDO laboratories, viz. Defence Research and Development Establishment (DRDE), Gwalior, Institute of Nuclear Medicine and Allied Sciences (INMAS), New Delhi and Defence Laboratory (DL), Jodhpur, have been painstakingly aiding in this initiative.
The Indian armed forces have made assertions about their ability to fight in NBC conditions, but little hard information is available on the degree of NBC readiness.
In the 1980s, the Indian army began some tentative preparations for NBC warfare. In the early part of that decade, a limited quantity of S6 respirators and No.1Mk.3 NBC suits - both of British origin - was purchased. A quantity of NBC equipment was imported from the USSR, but proved to be useless in Indian environmental conditions. Moreover, Defence Research & Development Organisation (DRDO), in 1987, produced prototypes of NBC suits, decontamination suits, facelets, overboots and NBC tents. This equipment has entered production and service with the Indian armed forces.
As regards training, from 1987 onwards, the Indian army, through its College of Military Engineering, began running familiarization courses in NBC warfare, while scientist conducted courses at brigade level.
The Ministry of Defence has allocated high priority to the indigenous production of NBC gear. This has also involved the participation of the private sector for the manufacture of both NBC suits and respirators. In addition, the Indian army has retained its old Second World War respirators - these are old, but would still offer significant protection. A new decontamination vehicle has entered production.
The Army Training Command has conducted detailed studies into NBC warfare. Indian army schools of instruction and combat include NBC scenarios.
India's Strike Corps will be the first to be fully equipped and prepared for NBC warfare and there are some indications of this beginning to occur. The other formations would probably receive personal NBC gear - but will be allocated a lower priority for receiving decontamination and monitoring equipment.
Extremely severe environmental conditions ranging from the intense cold of the Siachen glacier to the blistering heat of the Thar desert pose great difficulties for human endurance, if the troops were clad in full NBC gear and armoured vehicles 'buttoned-up', there would be more casualties from heat-stroke than from exposure.
The Indian Air Force (IAF) has also designed courses for the QRT, for nuclear, radiological, biological and chemical emergencies (BCER). A similar effort has also been started at the Faculty of NBC Protection, College of Military Engineering, Pune, which is the Indian Army's premier CBRN training establishment. The Central Paramilitary forces are also progressively evolving their training.
With the National Disaster Management Mechanism taking a concrete shape, with the formation of National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) in 2005, the natural evolution was the creation of an exclusive force for fighting CBRN disasters in the realm of the national security. Four battalions of the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) have been earmarked at the disposal of the NDMA to respond to CBRN contingencies and are standing by at bases with airlift facility.
The DRDO and Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) and other stakeholders like Ministry of Health, UGC, etc. have been greatly assisting the training initiative of the responders with the help of their resource persons as well as the induction of some of the indigenously developed CBRN defence products.
With the threat of CBRN disaster looming large, the industry also needs to be prepared and involved. The various chambers of commerce may act as catalysts in this endeavour to develop a practical model of public-private partnership (PPP).