The threat is mainly from Chinese and Pakistani establishments that are pursuing bioweapons.
BENGALURU: Deadly Ebola and Marburg viruses were collected from bats in Nagaland by Chinese and US defence researchers in 2017. Any disgruntled or greedy or brainwashed employee in a bio-warfare program of any nation can easily pass on deadly viruses to terrorists in an easy to carry vaccine or insulin cool-pouch.
The threat of state sponsored bioterrorism to India is a clear and present danger. Awareness of this is most important as forewarned is forearmed. A study in Nagaland at Mimi village on the Indo-Myanmar border in 2017 on viruses in local fruit bats by researchers from Uniformed Services (Military) University of the Health Sciences, Bethesda, Maryland, USA; Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV) and Duke-National University of Singapore with Indian researchers was published on 31 October 2019 in the journal “PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases” and was sponsored by the Department of Defense, Defense Threat Reduction Agency, USA. They reported the presence in these bats of the filovirus family of viruses that include the deadly Ebola and Marburg viruses that for long have been the focus of bioweapon research. They also found reactive antibodies to these viruses in both human bat hunters and the local bats. The involvement of foreign entities with consent only from their own institutions but without prior permission of the Government of India raised major concern and an enquiry was ordered by the government only after the pandemic started. A five-member committee set up by the Indian Council of Medical Research had submitted a report to the Health Ministry. The US Centre for Disease Control (CDC) in Atlanta stated that it had not commissioned this study. It had probably not been kept in the loop by the US Department of Defense. The viruses and data collected by the WIV Chinese researchers can easily be misused to prepare bioweapons against India. Answers to the five-Ws—Who, Why, What, When, Where—and How are the essentials of any investigation by journalists, military intelligence, detectives or researchers and hence are answered here.
WHO THE THREAT IS FROM: The threat is mainly from our traditional adversaries, the Chinese and Pakistani establishments who are together pursuing bioweapons. They have opened a third front within India by enrolling corrupt Indians, political malcontents and religious bigots as agents to achieve their agenda. Every effort is being made to rope in our neighbours and also influence world powers, multilateral global agencies and the Indian diaspora to attack India and its government. The sustained effort is to hijack Indian democracy to bring regime change or at least create chaos to paralyse the government and thus weaken our economy, health and defences. Another risk is any disgruntled or greedy or brainwashed employee in the bio-warfare program of any nation can easily pass on deadly viruses to terrorists in an easy to carry vaccine or insulin cool pouch.
WHY BIOTERRORISM IS A CLEAR AND PRESENT DANGER TO INDIA: Bioterrorism has the advantage of deniability, portability, deployment, self-replication and is the only option left for China and Pakistan against India because of the following reasons. Chemical and nuclear warfare are becoming increasingly irrelevant because of traceability of the source, international pressure and counter-attack deterrence. Conventional wars have become wars of attrition by proxies. It is now limited in time frame, geography and advantage gained because of arms supplies and support to both sides of any war by global powers divided into two adversary camps. Pakistan establishment’s war of bleeding India by a thousand cuts using proxy terrorists is going nowhere; instead, it is Pakistan’s economy that is bleeding by a thousand leaks. Chinese war by salami slicing of Indian land has ground to a halt in the heights of the Himalayas as its pampered army is short of breath and willpower to fight. Its Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and debt trap attempts to encircle India and overcome its Malacca dilemma are causing a ballooning diplomatic and debt crisis. The only option left is to weaken India by bioterrorism preceded by cyber-attacks, disinformation and propaganda and encouraging internal strife both communal and Naxalite, hence National Security Advisor Ajit Doval’s recent statement that “civil society is the new frontier of war”. The intent to use bioweapons is further confirmed by the army of Chinese ally North Korea marching in Hazmat suits (See image).
WHAT THE RISK IS: The risk is very high as bioweapons are ready for deployment as already evident from the inadvertent leak at the Wuhan laboratories. The proxies have also been augmented and activated both on our western front and also on our far eastern flank, thanks to the instability in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Myanmar. The inimical activists within India are high on fervour and enthusiasm after what they perceive as success in their street protests and attacks against the government for economic problems and pandemic management.
WHEN THE LIKELY THREAT IS: The first wave of Covid-19 in India was delayed by a ban on flights from China and the national lockdown, and started towards the end of June 2020, otherwise it would have started in March. The second wave started in mid-February of 2021; hence the threat of bioterror is likely to be in February-March during or after the budget session of Parliament for three reasons. 1. This timing will help pass off the attack as a natural third wave of the pandemic. 2. It may include another attack on our temple of democracy. 3. Our adversaries hope that a weakened India by May will enable them to march in by the time the snow melts on our Himalayan borders.
WHERE THE LIKELY THREAT IS: The bio warfare may not necessarily be with our Army at the borders, as our enemies want these areas to be safe for them to occupy and dismember India. It is more likely the deadly pathogens will be spread in our commercial hubs, strategic installations, command and control centres, health facilities and heavily populated areas after a cyber-attack to paralyse all infrastructure and communication.
HOW THE VIRUS WILL BE SPREAD: In a previous article titled “Corona variants are bio-weapons in a war by deception” dated June 20, 2021 in The Sunday Guardian, I had detailed how the corona virus can be preserved in powder form for up to 14 days at room temperature and at least 2 months at +4 degrees C with ordinary refrigeration. I had also mentioned how the Covid-19 outbreak in Jubilant Pharma factory in Nanjangud, Karnataka, India in March 2020 was likely to have been a field test in targeted bio warfare. There were five variants of the Covid-19 virus in Jan 2020 as per the family tree published by the researchers of the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV) in the journal Nature. By now deadlier viruses and variants, and vaccines and medicines for them would have been prepared with the benefit of the pandemic experience. It is no wonder that all efforts to investigate the WIV are being stonewalled. The virus can be spread by suicide bio-bombers or by agricultural spraying drones.
BIODEFENCE AND MEDICAL COUNTERMEASURES: Biodefence includes medical research and preparations to defend against bioterrorist attacks. High-Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) filters need to be installed in AC ducts, to filter out biological agents at large quarantine emergency shelters and in strategically important facilities including health, communication, transport and logistics facilities. Medical measures include personal protection equipment like Hazmat suits, early identification of the bioweapon used and quick development and deployment of testing kits, hospital and ICU equipment and facilities, vaccinations and medicines. We should develop vaccines and medication for Ebola and other virus infections not yet seen in India. Information and relief distribution measures and networks of health care and frontline workers developed during this pandemic will be useful. All crowds at any place or reason should be restricted or banned. Enhanced funding for research and development of new detection and disease surveillance methods; new vaccines and antimicrobial therapies; design and construction of large disaster relief cum quarantine shelters; and health facilities capable of managing a surge in demand, should be a national priority as this will also improve our preparedness for natural disasters and epidemics.
Dr P.S. Venkatesh Rao, MBBS (Vellore), MS (Vellore), DNB, FRCS (Glasgow), FACS, FICS, FMAS, FAES is Consultant Endocrine, Breast and Laparoscopic Surgeon.