Nuclear Disarmament India

Non-NPT State with Nuclear Weapons

Arsenal Size

  • Estimated stockpile: 110 to 120 warheads. Warheads are not deployed but in central storage. [1]
Key Delivery Systems
  • Nuclear-capable aircraft: French-manufactured Mirage 2000H, British/French-designed Jaguar IS/IB, Soviet-origin MiG-27, and Russian-designed Sukhoi Su-30MKI. India purchased 36 nuclear-capable Rafale fighter-bombers from France on September 23, 2016. [2][3]
     
  • Nuclear submarines: The INS Arihant SSBN was commissioned in August 2016. [4] Operational ballistic missiles: Short-range Prithvi-I, Prithvi-II, Agni-I, and medium-range Agni-II, III, and IV. [5]
     
  • Operational cruise missiles: BrahMos supersonic cruise missile and the Nirbhay tactical cruise missile. [6]
     
  • In testing: The Dhanush ship-launched SRBM (a variant of the Prithvi-III), the Sagarika/K-15 SLBM, the K-4 intermediate-range SLBM, the Shaurya tactical ballistic missile (variant of the Sagarika/K-15), and the Agni-V ICBM. [7][8][9][10][11]
     

Estimated Destructive Power

  • Unknown, likely over two megatons [12]
     
  • Indian officials claim to have had a successful thermonuclear bomb test in May 1998 with a yield of 43-60 kt. Most scholars estimate this figure to have been lower, some concluding that the two-stage device was a failure. [13]
     

Estimated Military Fissile Material Stockpiles

  • All Indian nuclear weapons are believed to be plutonium based. India earmarks its HEU for its nuclear submarine program. [14][15]
     
  • Plutonium: Estimated 0.59 ± 0.18 tons of weapons-grade plutonium. There is some speculation that India uses reactor-grade plutonium in its nuclear weapons, which would increase the total amount to 4.3-5.1 tons. [16][17]
     
  • Weapons-grade HEU: Estimated 3.2 ± 0.9 tons. [18]
     
  • India's amount of available plutonium is enough to produce an additional 100 nuclear bombs. [19]
     
  • Produces weapons-grade plutonium at the CIRUS (now decommissioned) and Dhruva reactors located at the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC). The BARC complex also contains the Trombay reprocessing plant. [20]
     
  • Commissioned a Prototype Fast Breeder Reactor (PFBR) at Kalpakkam, which could produce enough material for 30 nuclear weapons per year. [21]
     
  • Produces HEU at the Rare Materials Plant in Rattehalli, Mysore. A second enrichment plant has been proposed in Chitradurga. [22]
     

Disarmament and Commitments to Reduce Arsenal Size

  • Opposed to signing the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT), which it views as discriminatory. [23]
     
  • Has long stated that it desires a world free of nuclear weapons, but has developed weapons to be on equal standing with other world powers. Its 1999 Draft Nuclear Doctrine asserted "global, verifiable, and non-discriminatory nuclear disarmament is a national security objective." [24] [25]
     
Future Commitments
  • In support of a non-discriminatory, universal, and verifiable Fissile Material Cut-Off Treaty (FMCT). Does not want the treaty to cover existing stockpiles. [26]
     
  • At the 2015 Conference on Disarmament, India restated its belief that non-discriminatory, multilateral agreements to increase restraints on the use of nuclear weapons will lead to their eventual elimination. [27]
     
  • Attended the previous three conferences on the Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear Weapons—Oslo, 2013; Nayarit, 2014; Vienna, 2014. [28]
     
  • India joined all other nuclear-possessing states in boycotting the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons negotiations in the United Nations in 2017. India views the Conference on Disarmament as the sole vehicle for negotiating a nuclear ban treaty. [29]
     

Nuclear Weapons Related Policies

Nuclear Testing Policy
Use of Nuclear Weapons
  • Adopted a no-first-use policy and declared that it would never threaten to use or actually use nuclear weapons against a non-nuclear weapons state. The retaliation-only policy is based on a credible minimum deterrent. [33]
     
  • Maintains a doctrine of credible minimum nuclear deterrence which is ambiguously defined, suggesting that India keeps a small but survivable nuclear force. [34]
     
  • Ratified the India-Pakistan Non-Attack Agreement in January 1991. [35]
     
  • Signed the Lahore Agreement in February 1999. [36]
     

Sources:
[1] "Status of World Nuclear Forces," Federation of American Scientists, May 26, 2017, www.fas.org.
[2] "Strategic Weapons Systems," Jane's Sentinel Security Assessment-South Asia, February 23, 2017; Hans M. Kristensen and Robert S. Norris, "Indian Nuclear Forces, 2015," Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, Vol. 71 (5), www.thebulletin.org.
[3] Vivek Raghuvanshi, "India Unlikely to Buy Additional Rafale Fighter Jets, MoD Source Says," Defense News, October 5, 2016, www.defensenews.com; Rahul Singh, "Dassault set sights on supplying 200 Rafale jet to India over next decade," Hindustan Times, February 15, 2017, www.hindustantimes.com.
[4] Franz-Stefan Gady, "India Quietly Commissions Deadliest Sub," The Diplomat, October 19, 2016, www.thediplomat.com.
[5] "Strategic Weapons Systems," Jane's Sentinel Security Assessment-South Asia, February 23, 2017; "Missiles of India," CSIS Missile Defense Project, www.missilethreat.csis.org.
[6] "Strategic Weapons Systems," Jane's Sentinel Security Assessment-South Asia, February 23, 2017; "Missiles of India," CSIS Missile Defense Project, www.missilethreat.csis.org.
[7] "Strategic Weapons Systems," Jane's Sentinel Security Assessment-South Asia, February 23, 2017.
[8] "Strategic Weapons Systems," Jane's Sentinel Security Assessment-South Asia, February 23, 2017.
[9] Ankit Panda, "India Successfully Tests Intermediate-Range Nuclear-Capable Submarine-Launched Ballistic Missile," The Diplomat, April 10, 2016, www.thediplomat.com.
[10] "Strategic Weapons Systems," Jane's Sentinel Security Assessment-South Asia, February 23, 2017.
[11] "Strategic Weapons Systems," Jane's Sentinel Security Assessment-South Asia, February 23, 2017; "Missiles of India," CSIS Missile Defense Project, www.missilethreat.csis.org.<br />
[12] Original estimates (1 megaton) were drawn from Gareth Evans and Yoriko Kawaguchi, "Nuclear Arsenals, 2009," Eliminating Nuclear Threats: A Practical Agenda for Global Policymakers, International Commission on Nuclear Non-proliferation and Disarmament: Canberra, 2009, www.icnnd.org. Updating that estimate for an arsenal of roughly 100 nuclear weapons gives a yield of 2.1 megatons, all else held constant.
[13] Carey Sublette, "What are the Real Yields of India's Test?" Nuclear Weapon Archive, November 8, 2001, www.nuclearweaponarchive.org; M.V Ramana, "India," Assuring Destruction Forever, Reaching Critical Will, March 2012, www.reachingcriticalwill.org.
[14] M.V Ramana, "India," Assuring Destruction Forever by Reaching Critical Will, March 2012, www.reachingcriticalwill.org.
[15] Zia Mian, Alexander Glaser, "Global Fissile Material Report 2015. Nuclear weapons and fissile material stockpiles and production," Presentation at NPT Review Conference, May 8, 2015, United Nations, New York, http://fissilematerials.org.
[16] M.V Ramana, "India," Still Assuring Destruction Forever: An Update to the 2012 Report, Reaching Critical Will, March 2013, www.reachingcriticalwill.org.
[17] Zia Mian, Alexander Glaser, "Global Fissile Material Report 2015. Nuclear weapons and fissile material stockpiles and production," Presentation at NPT Review Conference, May 8, 2015, United Nations, New York, http://fissilematerials.org; "International Panel on Fissile Material: India," International Panel on Fissile Materials, April 11, 2016, http://fissilematerials.org.
[18] A. Vinod Kumar, "Reforming the NPT to include India," Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, May 1, 2010, www.thebulletin.org.
[19] M.V. Ramana, "India," Assuring Destruction Forever: 2015 Edition, Reaching Critical Will, April 2015, www.reachingcriticalwill.org.
[20] M.V. Ramana, "India," Assuring Destruction Forever: 2015 Edition, Reaching Critical Will, April 2015, www.reachingcriticalwill.org.
[21] M.V. Ramana, "India," Assuring Destruction Forever: 2015 Edition, Reaching Critical Will, April 2015, www.reachingcriticalwill.org.
[22] M.V. Ramana, "India," Assuring Destruction Forever: 2015 Edition, Reaching Critical Will, April 2015, www.reachingcriticalwill.org.
[23] M.V. Ramana, "India," Assuring Destruction Forever: 2015 Edition, Reaching Critical Will, April 2015, www.reachingcriticalwill.org.
[24] Zia Mian, M.V. Ramana, R. Rajaraman, "India," in the publication Reducing and Eliminating Nuclear Weapons: Country Perspectives on the Challenges to Nuclear Disarmament, International Panel on Fissile Materials, May 2010, www.fissilematerials.org.
[25] "India's Draft Nuclear Doctrine," released from National Security Advisory Board on Indian Nuclear Doctrine, Arms Control Today, July/August 1999, www.armscontrol.org; Reiji Yoshida, "Abe, Singh ink statement on nuclear deal," The Japan Times, May 30, 2013.
[26] "FMCT: India sticks to stand, Pak dithers," The Times of India, September 24, 2010, www.articles.timesofindia.indiatimes.com; Sharon Squassoni, Andrew Demkee, and Jill Marie Parillo, "Banning Fissile Material Production for Nuclear Weapons: Prospects for a Treaty (FMCT)," Congressional Research Service (CRS) Report for Congress, July 14, 2006, www.csis.org.
[27] Ambassador D.B. Venkatesh Varma, Statement on Nuclear Disarmament at the Conference on Disarmament, February 24, 2015, www.reachingcriticalwill.org.
[28] "Revised List of Participants," Conference: The Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear Weapons, March 4-5, 2013, www.reachingcriticalwill.org; "Registered Participants," Second Conference on the Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear Weapons, February 13-14, 2014, www.reachingcriticalwill.org; Statement by Dr. Suhel Ajaz Khan at The Vienna Conference on the Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear Weapons, December 8-9, 2015, www.reachingcriticalwill.org.
[29] Devirupa Mitra, "India Joins Boycott of Nuclear Weapons Ban Treaty Talks by Big Powers," The Wire, March 29, 2017, www.thewire.in.
[30] Somini Sangupta, "India Debates Its Right to Nuclear Testing," The New York Times, April 21, 2007.
[31] India: Inventory of International Nonproliferation Organizations and Regimes, James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies, updated November 18, 2010, www.nonproliferation.org.
[32] A. Vinod Kumar, "India and the CTBT: The Debate in New Delhi," Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists: Web Edition, November 4, 2009, www.thebulletin.org; Statement by H.E.I Gusti Agung Wesaka Puja on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement at the First Session of the Preparatory Committee for the 2015 Review Conference, Cluster 1: Nuclear Disarmament and Security Assurances, May 4, 2012, www.reachingcriticalwill.com.
[33] Nirupama Rao, "Address by Foreign Secretary at National Defence College on 'Challenges in India's Foreign Policy,'" Indian Ministry of External Affairs, November 19, 2010, www.mea.gov.in; Harsh V. Pant, "India's Nuclear Doctrine and Command Structure: Implications for Civil-Military Relations in India," Armed Forces and Society, Volume 33, No. 2, January 2007.
[34] M.V Ramana, "India," Assuring Destruction Forever: 2015 Edition, Reaching Critical Will, April 2015, www.reachingcriticalwill.org.
[35] India Pakistan Non-Attack Agreement, Nuclear Threat Initiative, www.nti.org.
[36] Lahore Agreement, Nuclear Threat Initiative, www.nti.org.

July 13, 2017
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The Nuclear Disarmament Resource Collection contains information and analysis of nuclear weapons disarmament proposals and progress worldwide, including detailed coverage of disarmament progress in countries who either possess or host other countries' nuclear weapons on their territories.

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This material is produced independently for NTI by the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey and does not necessarily reflect the opinions of and has not been independently verified by NTI or its directors, officers, employees, or agents. Copyright 2017.