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International Relations

Phosphorus Bombs

  • 15 Mar 2022
  • 5 min read

For Prelims: Phosphorus Bomb, Donbas region, Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC), Australia Group

For Mains: Important International Institutions, Russia-Ukraine War

Why in News?

Recently, Ukrainian police has accused Russian forces of launching phosphorus bomb attacks (chemical weapon) in the Lugansk and Donetsk regions of eastern Ukraine, collectively known as the Donbas.

  • International law prohibits the use of white phosphorus shells in heavily populated civilian areas, but allows them in open spaces to be used as cover for troops.

What is Phosphorus Bomb?

  • Allotropes: White phosphorus munitions are weapons that use one of the common allotropes of the chemical element phosphorus.
  • Pyrophoric: White phosphorus is pyrophoric (it is ignited by contact with air), burns fiercely, and can ignite cloth, fuel, ammunition, and other combustibles.
    • Apart from this, it is also used in smoke, illumination, and burning elements of tracer ammunition.
  • Chemical Reaction: In addition to its offensive capabilities, white phosphorus is a highly efficient smoke-producing agent, reacting with air to produce an immediate blanket of phosphorus pentoxide vapour.
  • Effects: In addition to direct injuries caused by fragments of their casings, white phosphorus munitions can cause injuries in two main ways: burn injuries and vapour inhalation.

What are Chemical Weapons?

  • A Chemical Weapon is a chemical used to cause intentional death or harm through its toxic properties.
  • Munitions, devices and other equipment specifically designed to weaponize toxic chemicals also fall under the definition of chemical weapons.

What is International Law regarding Use of Chemical Weapons?

  • Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) is a multilateral treaty banning chemical weapons and requiring their destruction within the stipulated time.
  • Negotiations for the CWC began in 1980 at the United Nations Conference on Disarmament.
  • The convention was drafted in September 1992 and opened for signature in January 1993. It became effective from April 1997.
  • It makes it mandatory to destroy old and abandoned chemical weapons.
  • Members should also declare the riot-control agents (sometimes referred to as ‘tear gas’) in possession of them.
  • India signed the treaty in January 1993. The Chemical Weapons Convention Act, 2000 was passed to implement the CWC.
  • Convention Prohibits:
    • The development, production, acquisition, stockpiling, or retention of chemical weapons.
    • Transferring of chemical weapons.
    • Using chemical weapons.
    • Assisting other States to indulge in activities that are prohibited by the CWC.
    • Using riot-control devices as ‘warfare methods’.
  • Apart from CWC, Australia Group seeks to check proliferation of chemical or biological weapons.

What is the Australia Group?

  • The Australia Group (AG) is an informal forum of countries which, through the harmonisation of export controls, seeks to ensure that exports do not contribute to the development of chemical or biological weapons.
  • The formation of the Australia Group (AG) in 1985 was prompted by Iraq’s use of chemical weapons during the Iran-Iraq War (1980-1988)
  • Coordination of National export control measures assists Australia Group members to fulfil their obligations under the Chemical Weapons Convention and Biological & Toxin Weapons Convention.
  • It has 43 members (including the European union). The members work on a consensus basis. The annual meeting is held in Paris, France.
  • India joined (as 43rd Participant) the Australia Group (AG) on 19th January 2018.
  • The Australia Group decided to admit India as the Group’s through a consensus decision.


Consider the following pairs: (2020)

International agreement/set-up             Subject

  1. Alma-Ata Declaration :                 Healthcare of the people
  2. Hague Convention :                     Biological and chemical weapons
  3. Talanoa Dialogue :                       Global climate change
  4. Under2 Coalition :                        Child rights

Which of the pairs given above is/are correctly matched?

(a) 1 and 2 only
(b) 4 only
(c) 1 and 3 only
(d) 2, 3 and 4 only

Ans: (c)

Source: TH

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