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Overview Last updated: March, 2014

India perceives its nuclear weapons and missile programs as crucial components of its strategic doctrine. New Delhi rejects the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) on the grounds that it perpetuates—at least in the short-term—an unjust distinction between the five states that are permitted by the treaty to possess nuclear weapons, while requiring all other state parties to the treaty to remain non-nuclear weapon states. India has also been highly critical of the pace of the nuclear weapon states' disarmament progress, arguing that they have not fulfilled their commitments under Article VI of the NPT. However, India has recently taken steps to integrate into the broader nonproliferation regime, receiving a waiver in 2008 from the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), entering into bilateral civilian nuclear agreements, and expressing interest in joining the major export control regimes.


India is not a member of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) or the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), though it is a state party to the Partial Test Ban Treaty (PTBT). New Delhi embarked on a nuclear energy program in 1948 and a nuclear explosives program in 1964.[1] The latter culminated in the May 1974 test of a "peaceful nuclear explosion."[2] Following five nuclear tests in May 1998, India formally declared itself a nuclear weapon state.

According to the 2013 SIPRI Yearbook, the Indian arsenal comprises 90 to 110 warheads. Estimates in 2012 put India's highly enriched uranium (HEU) stockpile at 2.4 ± 0.9 tons, and its weapons-grade plutonium stockpile at 0.54 ± 0.18 tons.[3] Although India is increasingly concentrating on developing missiles for nuclear delivery roles, aircraft such as the Mirage 2000 and the Jaguar remain integral parts of its nuclear delivery force.[4]

India and the United States announced a nuclear cooperation initiative in July 2005 that would permit New Delhi to participate in international nuclear trade, under certain conditions.[5] In 2008, New Delhi negotiated a limited safeguards agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).[6] Subsequently, in September 2008 the Nuclear Suppliers Group removed the ban on India's participation in nuclear trade with its members. In October 2008, India and the United States signed a bilateral '123' nuclear cooperation agreement. India has since signed nuclear cooperation agreements with several countries, including Canada, Russia, France, Argentina, Kazakhstan, and Namibia. India is working to conclude agreements Australia and Japan.[7]


Although some intelligence estimates suggest that India possesses biological weapons, there is very limited open-source information available about a possible Indian biological weapons program. India's Defence Research and Development Establishment has conducted research on detecting and countering various diseases.[8] India also has an extensive dual-use capability in its advanced pharmaceutical industry. India ratified the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention (BTWC) in 1974. India and the United States maintain ongoing discussions on compliance with the BTWC and export control issues.[9]


After many years of denying the existence of a chemical weapons program, India disclosed in June 1997 that it possessed chemical weapons. Under the terms of the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC), which India signed in 1993 and ratified in September 1996, India had destroyed approximately 75 percent of its stockpile of Schedule 1 chemicals by the end of 2006.[10] In March 2009, India announced that it had destroyed all of its chemical weapons stocks in accordance with the CWC.[11]


For more than two decades, India has sought to develop and deploy ballistic and other types of missiles. India reportedly possessed three nuclear-capable ballistic missiles as of 2008—the Prithvi I (range 150km); the Agni I (700km); and the Agni II (2,000km).[12] The Agni II was successfully test-fired in September 2011, and the Agni I was successfully test-fired in December 2011.[13] India successfully tested the Agni III and IV, both intermediate range missiles with ranges of more than 3,000km, in February 2010 and November 2011 respectively.[14] India tested the Agni V, its first intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) with a range of more than 5,000km, in April 2012.[15] The Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) in May 2012 announced plans to develop the Agni VI, an ICBM with a range of 8,000 to 10,000km.[16]

New Delhi has also taken steps toward achieving a submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) capability, with the first test of the K-15 (Sagarika) taking place in February 2008 from a submerged barge.[17] India is also in the process of developing newer missile systems. The latest project is the Shourya (Valor), which was successfully tested in November 2008. This 600km range nuclear-capable ballistic missile is intended to enhance India's fledgling sea-based deterrent.[18]

India is not a member of the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR), but in July 2005 it agreed to comply with MTCR guidelines.[19] In November 2002, New Delhi rejected a draft of the Hague Code of Conduct Against Ballistic Missile Proliferation (HCOC), which it believes is discriminatory and interferes with the peaceful uses of space technology.[20]

India has also focused on cruise missile advancements and made significant progress in the development and deployment of the BrahMos supersonic cruise missile, which was jointly developed with Russia.[21] A second cruise missile, the Nirbhay (Fearless), was announced in 2007; this will be a sub-sonic missile with a range of 1,000km, and is due to be tested in 2012.[22] India is also concentrating on acquiring missile defense capabilities. Since 2006, India has tested components of its missile defense system on several occasions. Although the program was originally beset by test failures, after three successful tests since July 2010, the DRDO announced in April 2012 that India's missile defense system is ready for deployment in 2013-2014.[23] New Delhi expects missile defense cooperation with companies and governments from the United States, Israel, and Russia.[24]

[1] George Perkovich, India's Nuclear Bomb: The Impact on Global Proliferation (Berkley: University of California Press, 1999), pp. 17-18 and 82-83.
[2] See images at: "First Nuclear Test at Pokhran in 1974," Federation of American Scientists, 4 July 2000, www.fas.org.
[3] "Summary," SIPRI Yearbook 2013: Armaments, Disarmaments and International Security (Stockholm: Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, 2013), www.sipri.org; "India," International Panel on Fissile Materials, 4 February 2013, www.fissilematerials.org.
[4] "Global Fissile Material Report 2011," International Panel on Fissile Materials, Fifth Annual Report, January 2012, www.fissilematerials.org.
[5] Office of the Press Secretary, "Joint Statement Between President George W. Bush and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh," distributed by the White House, 18 July 2005.
[6] International Atomic Energy Agency, "Nuclear Verification: The Conclusion of Safeguards Agreements and Additional Protocols," (Agreement Text), 9 July 2008, www.isis-online.org. Ravi Velloor, "N-Trade for India, Japan on the Cards; Pact Being Thrashed Out, Say Sources," The Straits Times (Singapore), 24 August 2011, www.lexisnexis.com; David Fickling, "Australia Governing Party Backs End to India Uranium Export Ban," The Wall Street Journal, 5 December 2011, www.online.wjs.com; "India Courts Canada on Nuclear Partnership," CBC News, 17 July 2011, www.cbc.ca.; "India, Canada Sign Civil Nuclear Deal," Times of India, 29 June 2010, http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com.
[7] Dev Vrat Kamboj, Ajay Kumar Goel, and Lokendra Singh, "Biological Warfare Agents," Defence Science Journal, Vol. 56, No. 4, October 2006, pp. 495-506, via: http://drdo.gov.in. "Dr. Saraswat Inaugurates State of the art Chem-Bio sensor facility," DRDO Press Release, 24 May 2012, http://drdo.gov.in/drdo; “Nuclear Power in India,” World Nuclear Association, 10 April 2013, www.world-nuclear.org; ”Indian-Japanese Cooperation Deal Moves Closer,” World Nuclear News, 30 May 2013, www.world-nuclear-news.org.
[8] U.S. Department of State, "Adherence to and Compliance with Arms Control, Nonproliferation and Disarmament Agreements and Commitments," August 2011, www.state.gov.
[9] "Proliferation Threat and Assessment," Office of the Secretary of Defense, January 2001, www.defense.gov.
[10] Amb. Neelam D. Sabharwal, " Statement by Ambassador Ms. Neelam D. Sabharwal, Permanent Representative of India to the OPCW and Leader of the Indian Delegation to the 11th Session of the Conference of States Parties December 5-8, 2006," Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, December 2006, www.opcw.org.
[11] "Update on Chemical Demilitarisation," Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, 21 April 2009, www.opcw.org.
[12] Robert S. Norris and Hans M. Kristensen, "Indian Nuclear Forces, 2010," Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, September/October 2010, pp. 76-81.
[13] "India Successfully Test Fires N-Capable Agni II missile," The Times of India, 30 September 2011, www.indiatimes.com; "India Tests Nuclear-Capable Agni-I Missile," The Times of India, 1 December 2011, www.indiatimes.com.
[14] T.S. Subramanian and Y. Mallikarjun, "Agni-III launch a complete success," The Hindu, 7 February 2010, www.thehindu.com; Ben Doherty, "China feels India's Nuclear Heat," Sydney Morning Herald, 3 December 2011, www.smh.com.
[15] Siman Denyer, "India Tests Missile Capable of Reaching Beijing," The Washington Post, 18 April 2012, www.washingtonpost.com.
[16] "India to go for new age Agni-VI," New Indian Express, 23 May 2012, http://expressbuzz.com.
[17] Rahul Bedi, "Sagarika Test Firing Heralds India's SLBM Capability," Jane's Navy International, 1 March 2008.
[18] Manu Pubby, "India Unveils N-Capable Shourya," The Indian Express, 13 November 2008, www.indianexpress.com; "India Test-Fires Shaurya Missile," The Hindustan Times, 12 November 2008, www.hindustantimes.com.
[19] "Arms Control and Proliferation Profile: India," Fact Sheet, Arms Control Association, November 2007, www.armscontrol.org.
[20] "India Rejects Conduct Code on Missile Proliferation," Economic Times, 15 November 2002, http://articles.economictimes.indiatimes.com.
[21] Josy Joseph, "Navy Wants BrahMos in Submarines," Daily News & Analysis, 21 June 2008; T.S. Subramanian, "Cruising Along," Frontline, Vol. 24, Issue 13, 30 June-13 July 2007; "Trials of BrahMos Air Version from 2012: Sivathanu Pillai," The Hindu, 5 March 2011, www.thehindu.com.
[22] Radhakrishna Rao, "India Plots First Flight for Nirbhay Cruise Missile," Flightglobal.com, 17 February 2011, www.flightglobal.com; "India to Test Fire Sub-Sonic Cruise Missile Nirbhay Next Year," Economic Times (India), 13 November 2012, http://articles.economictimes.indiatimes.com.
[23] “India Tests Ballistic Missile Shield,” Indian Express, 23 November 2012, www.indianexpress.com; Y Mallikarjun and T S Subramanian, “India Proves Capability of Missile Defense System” The Hindu, 23 November 2012 www.thehindu.com.
[24] Siddharth Srivastava, "India and the U.S. Talk Missile Defense," The Asia Times, 15 January 2009, www.atimes.com.

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

Get the Facts on India

  • 2008 Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) waiver permits nuclear trade even though it is not an NPT member
  • Abandoned its offensive chemical weapons (CW) program by 1997 and destroyed its entire CW stockpile by 2009
  • Developing a hypersonic cruise missile in collaboration with the Russian Federation