GOVERNANCE/ SECURITY/ INTERNATIONAL
Topic: General Studies 2 & 3:
- Government policies and interventions for development in Health sectors
- Challenges to National Security
- International Organisation and their mandates
COVID-19: Countries should commit for Universal Bio-deterrence
Context: COVID-19 pandemic has awakened the world to the destructive potential of a possible biological weapon. Many see COVID-19 as a quasi-biological war in its scale, scope, duration and impact.
Health and biosecurity have, thus, become paramount in national security in 2020.
Challenges of Biological Weapons
- Difficult to differentiate between intentional harm and accidental transmission.
- New biological agents cannot be anticipated
- Highly transmissible and deadly
- The time lag in finding treatment and vaccines inflicts high morbidity and mortality on defenceless populations.
- The latency period and mutation into different strains makes disease detection and control difficult.
- It affects the armed forces’ capacity to deal with other conventional and terrorist threats
- Amenable to be used by non-state actors: Bioterrorism by non-state actors through accidental release or theft of biological disease agents from research facilities
- Mass contagion and fatalities can bring even the most powerful economies to a halt.
- Societies can be put into turmoil and governance can suffer serious crises.
What measures are need to tackle dangers of Bio-weapons?
- Integration with National Security
- Biosecurity should be mainstreamed into our defence, security and counterterrorism strategies.
- A dedicated National Rapid Deployment Biosecurity Force should be established
- This would consist of armed forces, police and health responders who perform frontline pandemic-related bio-defence, and disaster relief and response roles.
- Developing Bio-intelligence
- Effective, credible, national and international, bio-intelligence systems — especially for new diseases and potential bioweapons — should be put in place.
- National defence intelligence should incorporate medical intelligence and infectious diseases-risk assessment, and pandemic predictions.
- Countries should develop National strategies for bio-intelligence and cooperate with other friendly biosecurity powers
- Bio-safety of Research facilities
- Governmental and private R&D labs, biotech and virology centres need to be catalogued according to established safety levels, especially for dangerous biological toxins.
- Protocols in case of accidents and theft need to be established for them.
- Developing multilateral bio-surveillance mechanisms.
- Empowering WHO’s health security mechanisms to surveil and access facilities in countries free from geopolitical pressures.
- Non-proliferation and export control on dual-use biological materials and technologies.
- All countries need to recommit to a doctrine of universal bio-deterrence.
- Changes in Governance
- Countries need to make all normal laboratories and medical facilities transformable into a seamless biosecurity infrastructure for quick and reliable testing
- Countries should pursue national self-sufficiency in medical and healthcare supply chains
India needs to propel the early reinforcement of the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention with a comprehensive, legally-binding protocol on credible biosurveillance, verification and compliance mechanism at the 2021 review conference.
Connecting the dots:
- Chemical Weapons
- Trade control regimes: Wassenaar agreement, Australia Group, MTCR and NSG