Military Medicine Exercise with the SCO Countries (AIR analysis)

Military Medicine Exercise with the SCO Countries (AIR analysis)

Updated on 28 September, 2019

GS2 GS3 Security International Relations


  • India recently hosted the first conference of Armed Forces Medical Services (AFMS) of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) in New Delhi in September 2019.
  • It was the first military cooperation event, being hosted by India, after joining the SCO in June 2017.
  • The conference had been organised by the Indian Armed Forces with the support of Headquarters Integrated Defence Staff (HQ IDS).

What is Military Medicine Exercise:

  • It is a conference held by the members of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) sharing the best practices in the field of military medicine, building capacities and overcoming common challenges.
  • Military medicine experts the SCO Member States exchanged ideas deliberating on rendering of combat medical support, fighting for both natural and man-made disaster aftermaths, humanitarian assistance during disasters and various measures to improve patient safety.
  • It was the first of such kind of exercise, calling under a movement of ‘Doctors Without Border’.
  • Representatives from the Armed Forces Medical Services (AFMS) of all the SCO countries were called upon to the Conference to devise ways to effectively deal with new threats posed to soldiers by the ever-advancing battlefield technology.
  • The conference was proposed to be attended by 40 Indian delegates and 27 international delegates from the member countries of the SCO.
  • Pakistan as a member of the SCO was also called upon to participate in the Exercise, but no representative from Pakistan came over, on account of recent word war between India and Pakistan at the UN on India’s decision for calling off Article 370 from the Constitution and removing the special status of the State, declaring and dividing it to the Union Territories.
  • In India, the Directorate General of Armed Forces Medical Services (DGAFMS) is an apex organization, coordinating the medical services of all the three defence services in India that is, the Army, Navy and Air Force.
  • The Office of DGAFMS comes under the Ministry of Defence, which is headed by a Lieutenant General (Lt Gen) of Army or equivalent officer of Navy or Air Force.
  • The conference gained importance emphasising the building capabilities to deal with the menace of bioterrorism which is considered as a real threat, the world is facing today.

Special Emphasis on Bioterrorism in the Conference

  • What is ‘bioterrorism’?
    • Bioterrorism which is also referred to as ‘germ warfare’, is a form of terrorism which involves the intentional release of biological agents like bacteria, viruses, or other germs, Eg. Bacillus anthracis
    • Bioterrorism involves the deliberate or purposeful use of biological agents with an aim to harm and frighten the people of a state or society.
    • It may also relate to the military use (in case of policing the situation by the Government) of biological, chemical, and nuclear weapons.
    • The bioterrorism attacks involving biological agents are among the most insidious and breed the greatest fear.
    • Such attacks may not be detected for a long time, disturbing the situation by potentially exposing a vast number of people, unaware of the threat, to the severe health problems.
  • Discussions on bioterrorism in the Military Medical Conference:
    • Defence Minister of India addressed the inaugural function of the first Military Medicine Conference of the SCO countries, in New Delhi.
    • Claiming the bioterrorism as a ‘contiguous plague’, the Defence Minister asserted the need of armed forces and its medical services to be at the forefront of combating bioterrorism.
  • International conventions to tackle bioterrorism:
    • Geneva Protocol: The Geneva Protocol is a treaty prohibiting the use of asphyxiating, poisonous or other gases, and any biological or bacteriological methods in warfare or international armed conflicts. Signed in June 1925 at Geneva, the Protocol came into force in 1928. A long term debate on Geneva Protocol resulted into two major treaties:
      • Biological Weapons Convention (BWC) (1972) and
      • Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) (1993).
    • Biological Weapons Convention: The BWC was accorded in 1973, as the first multilateral disarmament treaty, for the prohibition of the development, production and stockpiling of biological, bacteriological or toxic weapons and their destruction.
  • India’s preparedness to tackle bioterrorism.
    • India is well-prepared with several nodal ministries being earmarked, dealing with epidemics caused by bioterrorism.
      • The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MHFW): The ministry has been tasked for early detection, providing directions and technical support for surveillance and capacity building to tackle an outbreak.
      • The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA): The ministry is responsible for assessing threats, intelligence inputs and implementation of preventive mechanisms.
      • The National Disaster Response Force (NDRF), under the Ministry of Home Affairs, is a specialised force dealing with both natural and man-made disasters. The NDRF is also responsible for tackling all chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear (CBRN) attacks in India.
      • The Ministry of Defence (MoD) in India manages all the matters and consequences of biowarfare.
      • The Defence R&D Organization (DRDO) is a leading research agency, dedicated to developing protective systems and equipment for troops of armed forces, to contend against nuclear, biological and chemical warfare.
    • Ratified international treaties and conventions:
      • Biological Weapons Convention (BWC): India has ratified the Biological Weapons Convention (BWC), which prohibits the development, production, acquisition, transfer, stockpile and/or use of biological, bacteriological and toxic means of warfare weapons.
      • Australia Group: India is a member of the Australia Group, which represent an informal arrangement for allowing exports to countries, minimising the risk of proliferation of chemical and biological weapons (CBW).
    • Measures to tackle Bioterrorism:
      • Anti-biological or Anti-bacteriological Weapons’ Arrangements: Uniting the world under stricter anti-biological or anti-bacteriological weapons’ agreements or arrangements, like BWC, would help the World to minimise the menace of bioterrorism.
      • Combating bioterrorism: Assisting affected individuals by developing rehabilitation centres, developing e-learning modules on methods to combat bioterrorism etc.
      • Community Awareness and Preparedness: Involving the media and internet judicially for community awareness and preparedness.
      • Disaster Management Quick Response Teams: Encouraging interested citizens to get registered and trained for being a part of national disaster management quick response teams.
      • Educational curriculum for environmental and disaster management: The curriculum for environmental and disaster management should be designed and introduced in all undergraduate courses. Also community preparedness in border areas where the population is more at risk are to be conducted through camps.
      • Mass level immunization: It may offer protection to populations at risk. It will help in preventing massive destruction due to rapid spread of infectious agents.

Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO)

  • The Shanghai Cooperation Organisation or the Shanghai Pact, is a eco-political military organisation founded in 2001 in Shanghai.
  • China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia and Tajikistan were the original 5 founding members of the organisation who found the Shanghai Five Group. The group was then renamed to Shanghai Cooperation Organisation with Uzbekistan joining the organisation in 2001.
  • There are eight member states in the SCO at present, namely, China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Pakistan and India (both joined in 2017).
  • There are about four observer states and six dialogue partners in the SCO at present:
    • Observer States: Afghanistan, Belarus, Iran and
    • Dialogue Partners: Armenia, Azerbaijan, Cambodia, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Turkey.
  • Objectives of the SCO:
    • To strengthen mutual trust among the neighbouring member states.
    • To promote effective cooperation in various fields like economy, trade, politics, culture and research and technology.
    • To ensure peace, prosperity, security and stability in the region, and
    • To establish a democratic, fair and rational international eco-political order.
  • Organisational Structure of the SCO:
    • The supreme decision-making body in the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation is the Heads of State Council.
    • The second highest body of the SCO is the Heads of Government Council.
    • Whereas the SCO secretariat, Beijing and the Executive Committee of the Anti-Terrorist Structure, Tashkent are the permanent bodies of the SCO.

Ex-TSENTR 2019:

  • Ex-TSENTR is an annual exercise conducted by the Russian Armed Forces’ in its annual training cycle.
  • The Ex-TSENTR 2019 was conducted by the Central Military Commission of Russia at Donguz training ranges, Orenburg, Russia.
  • Military contingents from China, Tajikistan, India, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Pakistan and Uzbekistan were invited by the Russian counterpart to take part in this exercise.
  • The main objective or goal of the Ex-TSENTR 2019 was to fight against international terrorism and ensuring military security in strategic central Asian region.
  • The strategic measures behind the exercise were mainly focused on:
    • Evaluating level of troop preparedness,
    • Raising the level of interoperability,
    • Acquisition of required skills and
    • Demonstrating readiness of participating armies.


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