DRDO chief controller Dr W Selvamurthy said NBC defence inventory held by armed forces include 64 products for detection, protection, medical management and decontamination, both at individual and collective levels.
With early detection being of critical importance, well-equipped rapid response teams need to be stationed in all major centres to handle NBC threats. DRDO has collaborated with the home ministry to formulate and upgrade standard operating protocols (SOPs) to deal with "all NBC eventualities".
"Non-state actors either independently or in collusion with state adversaries (read Pakistan) can employ NBC materials as a low-cost, high impact option to destabilize India...We have to be prepared," said Dr Selvamurthy.
"A state can use a proxy like al-Qaida, for instance, to deliver biological warfare agents like plaque, anthrax, typhoid, SARS etc. Biological agents are easier and cheaper to develop then nuclear weapons and are potentially far more destructive than chemical agents to unprotected military forces or civilian populations," he added.
Then, there is the very real threat of terror outfits gaining some access to enriched uranium, nuclear components or know-how in Pakistan. DRDO feels "dirty" bombs, basically radiological dispersal devices combining radioactive material with suitable explosives, in the hands of non-state actors pose "a significant potential threat".
Having also worked with National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) to develop guidelines and train quick-reaction teams, DRDO is focusing on the next-generation of NBC defence equipment under a Rs 285-crore project approved by the Cabinet Committee on Security. These include nanotechnology-based sensors for detection of biological and chemical agents, vehicle-mounted as well as stand-alone detection systems for chemical warfare agents, micro UAV (unmanned aerial vehicles) and remotely operated NBC reconnaissance systems, advanced inflatable shelters impervious to liquid and solid NBC agents for at least 48 hours, multi-purpose decontamination systems and the like.