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Overview Last updated: August, 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, ratifying a version of the Additional Protocol, and expressing interest in joining the major export control regimes.

Nuclear

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." Following five nuclear tests in May 1998, India formally declared itself a nuclear weapon state.[2]

According to the 2014 SIPRI Yearbook, the Indian arsenal comprises 90 to 110 warheads.[3] Estimates in 2013 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.[4] 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. In July 2014, India and the United Kingdom agreed to a GBP250 million deal that placed British Advanced Short-Range Air-to-Air Missiles (ASRAAM) on the Indian Air Force’s Jaguars.[5] While these missiles do not themselves deliver a nuclear payload, they can be seen as augmenting the Jaguar’s nuclear capability. In addition to the Mirage 2000 and the Jaguar, a $20 billion deal with the French will add 126 Rafale fighter jets, capable of carrying nuclear payloads, to their delivery arsenal.[6]

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.[7] In 2008, New Delhi negotiated a limited safeguards agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).[8] 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.[9] In June of 2014, India ratified a version of the IAEA Additional Protocol, after a 5-year delay.[10] The agreement allows IAEA inspectors access to the country’s civilian sites, but not to military facilities.[11]

India is expanding its submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) capability in order to complement its land- and air-based nuclear weapons.[12] In order to meet the increased amount of uranium, India has increased enrichment capabilities at the Indian Rare Metals Plant near Mysore in Karnataka.[13] There is fear, however, that the uranium hexafluoride could be diverted to India’s thermonuclear weapon capability.[14]

Biological

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.[15] India ratified the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention (BTWC) in 1974. The U.S. Department of State found India to be compliant with its commitments to the BTWC in 2010 and 2011, and has not addressed India in its “Adherence to and Compliance with Arms Control, Nonproliferation, and Disarmament Agreements and Commitments” report since 2012.[16] India has an extensive dual-use capability in its advanced pharmaceutical industry.

Chemical

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.[17] In March 2009, India announced that it had destroyed all of its chemical weapons stocks in accordance with the CWC.[18]

Missile

For more than two decades, India has sought to develop and deploy ballistic and other types of missiles. India reportedly possesses four nuclear-capable land-based ballistic missiles—the Prithvi I and II; and the Agni I,II, and IV.[19] The Agni III is thought to be inducted into service but not fully operational. Two additional land-based nuclear-capable missiles, the Agni IV and V, are under development.[20]

The Prithvi-II achieved successful testing in 2014 and uses advance inertial guidance systems to reach accuracy within a few meters.[21] In January 2014, a third and final test of the Agni IV demonstrated the ability to carry a 1-ton payload more than 4,000km.[22] India tested the Agni V, its first intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) with a range of more than 5,000km, in April 2012 and September 2013.[23] 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.[26]

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.[27] India debuted its INS Arihant nuclear submarine in early 2014. The indigenously built submarine has the capacity to carry twelve vertical-launched nuclear-tipped missiles.[28] India is also in the process of developing newer missile systems. The latest project, the Shaurya (Valor), was first successfully tested in November 2008. [29] This 700-800km range nuclear-capable ballistic missile greatly enhances India's fledgling sea-based deterrent.[30] In July 2014, the U.S. Defense Department stated that the U.S. intended to make a $200 million sale of Harpoon anti-ship missiles to India to be fitted on their submarines.[31]

India is not a member of the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR), but in July 2005 it agreed to comply with MTCR guidelines.[32] 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.[33] Although granted “waiver” status in 2008, India continues to seek admittance into the Nuclear Supplier’s Group, with the latest round of talks taking place in June 2014.[34]

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.[35] A second cruise missile, the Nirbhay (Fearless), was announced in 2007; a sub-sonic missile with a range of 1,000km.[36], The Nirbhay, which has undergone extensive research and development, is expected to be tested in late 2014. In June 2014, DRDO also successfully test fired the Astra air-to-air missile, India’s first indigenously produced beyond visual range (BVR) missile.[37] The medium-range Akash (Sky) surface-to-air missile was also tested in June of 2014, intercepting an aerial vehicle 30m above sea level.[38]

India is also concentrating on acquiring missile defense capabilities. Since 2006, India has tested components of its missile defense system on several occasions. The DRDO announced in April 2012 that India's missile defense system could be ready for deployment in late 2014.[39] New Delhi expects missile defense cooperation with companies and governments from the United States, Israel, and Russia.[40]

Sources:
[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] "16 June 2014: Nuclear Forces Reduced while Modernizations Continue, Says SIPRI,” Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, 16 June 2014, www.sipri.org.
[4] "Countries: India," International Panel on Fissile Materials, 4 February 2013, www.fissilematerials.org.
[5] James Hardy. “India, UK Agree GBP250 Million ASRAAM Deal,” Jane’s Defense Industry, 8 July 2014, www.janes.ihs.com.
[6] Rajit Pandit, “India Closes in on $20 Billion Rafale Deal,” The Times of India, 16 July 2014, www.timesofindia.com.
[7] 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.
[8] International Atomic Energy Agency, "Nuclear Verification: The Conclusion of Safeguards Agreements and Additional Protocols," (Agreement Text), 9 July 2008, www.isis-online.org.
[9] 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.
[10] Robert Kelley and Karl Dewey, “India Ratifies Nuclear Inspections Protocol After Five-Year Delay,” Jane’s Defense Weekly, 2 July 2014, www.janes.ihs.com.
[11] “India’s Nuclear Diplomacy: Late Addition,” The Economist, 28 June 2014, www.theeconomist.com.
[12] Brian Cloghley and Robert Kelley, “Nuclear Option – India Increases its Uranium Enrichment Programme,” Jane’s Intelligence Review, 5 June 2014, www.janes.ihs.com.
[13] Brian Cloghley and Robert Kelley, “Nuclear Option – India Increases its Uranium Enrichment Programme,” Jane’s Intelligence Review, 5 June 2014, www.janes.ihs.com.
[14] Brian Cloghley and Robert Kelley, “Nuclear Option – India Increases its Uranium Enrichment Programme,” Jane’s Intelligence Review, 5 June 2014, www.janes.ihs.com.
[15] 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.
[16] U.S. Department of State, "Adherence to and Compliance with Arms Control, Nonproliferation and Disarmament Agreements and Commitments," 2012, www.state.gov.
[17] 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.
[18] "Update on Chemical Demilitarisation," Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, 21 April 2009, www.opcw.org.
[19] Shannon N. Kile and Hans M. Kristensen, "VI. Indian Nuclear Forces," in SIPRI Yearbook 2013: Armaments, Disarmament and International Security (Stockholm: Oxford University Press, 2013) p. 312; “India Test Fires New Agni-IV Ballistic Missile,” RIA Novosti, 20 January 2014, http://en.ria.ru.
[20] Shannon N. Kile and Hans M. Kristensen, "VI. Indian Nuclear Forces," in SIPRI Yearbook 2013: Armaments, Disarmament and International Security (Stockholm: Oxford University Press, 2013) p. 312.
[21] “Strategic Weapons Systems,” IHS Jane’s Sentinel Security Assessment – South Asia, 12 February 2014, www.janes.ihs.com; “India Successfully Tests Prithvi-II Missile,” The Hindu, 28 March 2014, www.thehindu.com.
[22] “India Test Fires New Agni-IV Ballistic Missile,” RIA Novosti, 20 January 2014, http://en.ria.ru.
[23] Siman Denyer, "India Tests Missile Capable of Reaching Beijing," The Washington Post, 18 April 2012, www.washingtonpost.com; Jatindra Dash, “India Tests Agni-V Missile with Range as Far as Beijing,” Reuters, 15 September 2013, http://in.reuters.com.
[26] "India to go for new age Agni-VI," New Indian Express, 23 May 2012, http://expressbuzz.com.
[27] Rahul Bedi, "Sagarika Test Firing Heralds India's SLBM Capability," Jane's Navy International, 1 March 2008.
[28] “Strategic Weapons Systems,” IHS Jane’s Sentinel Security Assessment – South Asia, 12February 2014, www.janes.ihs.com.
[29] “Strategic Weapons Systems,” IHS Jane’s Sentinel Security Assessment – South Asia, 12February 2014, www.janes.ihs.com.
[30] “Strategic Weapons Systems,” IHS Jane’s Sentinel Security Assessment – South Asia, 12February 2014, www.janes.ihs.com.
[31] “India - UGM-84L Harpoon Missiles,” U.S. Defense Dept. Press Release, 1 July 2014, www.defense.gov.
[32] 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.
[33] "Arms Control and Proliferation Profile: India," Fact Sheet, Arms Control Association, November 2007, www.armscontrol.org.
[34] “India’s Role in the Nuclear Race,” New York Times, 5 July 2014, www.nytimes.com.
[35] "India Rejects Conduct Code on Missile Proliferation," Economic Times, 15 November 2002, http://articles.economictimes.indiatimes.com.
[36] 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.
[37] “Astra Missile Test Fired Successfully From Su-30MKI”, New Indian Express, 20 June 2014.
[38] Rajit Pandit. “Stage set for Test of Nuclear Capable Cruise Missile Nirbhay,” The Times of India, 15 May 2014, www.timesofindia.indiatimes.com.
[39] Zachary Keck, “India Prepares Long Range Missile Defense Test,” The Diplomat, 23 April 2014, www.thediplomat.com.
[40] Eric Auner, “Indian Missile Defense Program Advances,” Arms Control Association, January/February 2013, www.armscontrol.org.
[27] Rahul Bedi, "Sagarika Test Firing Heralds India's SLBM Capability," Jane's Navy International, 1 March 2008.
[28] “Strategic Weapons Systems,” IHS Jane’s Sentinel Security Assessment – South Asia, 12February 2014, www.janes.ihs.com.
[29] “Strategic Weapons Systems,” IHS Jane’s Sentinel Security Assessment – South Asia, 12February 2014, www.janes.ihs.com.
[30] “Strategic Weapons Systems,” IHS Jane’s Sentinel Security Assessment – South Asia, 12February 2014, www.janes.ihs.com.
[31] “India - UGM-84L Harpoon Missiles,” U.S. Defense Dept. Press Release, 1 July 2014, www.defense.gov.
[32] 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.
[33] "Arms Control and Proliferation Profile: India," Fact Sheet, Arms Control Association, November 2007, www.armscontrol.org.
[34] “India’s Role in the Nuclear Race,” New York Times, 5 July 2014, www.nytimes.com.
[35] "India Rejects Conduct Code on Missile Proliferation," Economic Times, 15 November 2002, http://articles.economictimes.indiatimes.com.
[36] 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.
[37] “Astra Missile Test Fired Successfully From Su-30MKI”, New Indian Express, 20 June 2014.
[38] Rajit Pandit. “Stage set for Test of Nuclear Capable Cruise Missile Nirbhay,” The Times of India, 15 May 2014, www.timesofindia.indiatimes.com.
[39] Zachary Keck, “India Prepares Long Range Missile Defense Test,” The Diplomat, 23 April 2014, www.thediplomat.com.
[40] Eric Auner, “Indian Missile Defense Program Advances,” Arms Control Association, January/February 2013, www.armscontrol.org.

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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