Arsenal and Missile Types
Non-NPT State with Nuclear Weapons
- Estimated stockpile: 150 to 200 warheads. Warheads are not deployed but in central storage.
Key Delivery Systems
- Nuclear-capable aircraft: French-manufactured Mirage 2000H “Vajra” and British/French-designed Jaguar IS/IB “Shamsher.” India purchased 36 nuclear-capable Rafale fighter-bombers from France on 23 September 2016 that it could convert to serve a nuclear role.
- Land-based Ballistic Missiles: Short-range Prithvi-II, Agni-I, and medium-range Agni-II, III, and IV (intermediate-range Agni-V under development).
- Sea-based Ballistic Missiles: Dhanush ship-based ballistic missile and K-15 submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBMs) ) (K-4 SLBM under development).
Capabilities and Developments
Estimated Military Fissile Material Stockpiles
- Plutonium: Estimated 600-700 kilograms of weapons-grade plutonium.
- Weapons-grade HEU: Estimated 4.9 ± 2 tons. Primarily for nuclear submarine program.
Commitments and Policies
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.
- Long desired nuclear disarmament but maintains need for national security. 1999 Draft Nuclear Doctrine asserted “global, verifiable, and non-discriminatory nuclear disarmament is a national security objective.”
- In support of a non-discriminatory, universal, and verifiable Fissile Material Cut-Off Treaty (FMCT). Does not want the treaty to cover existing stockpiles.
- 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.
Nuclear Weapons Related Policies
Nuclear Testing Policy
- Has observed nuclear testing moratorium since May 1998.
- Party to the Partial Test Ban Treaty (banning atmospheric, outer space, and underwater testing).
- India has not signed the Comprehensive Nuclear Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT). Along with the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM), India is a strong advocate for a time-bound disarmament commitment from nuclear-weapon-states (NWS) and may use the lack of a commitment as a reason to refrain from signing the CTBT.
Nuclear Weapons Use
- Adopted a no-first-use (NFU) policy and declared that it would never threaten or use nuclear weapons against a non-nuclear weapons state. Some Indian officials have made recent statements questioning the NFU policy.
- Maintains a doctrine of credible minimum nuclear deterrence which is ambiguously defined, suggesting that India keeps a small but survivable nuclear force.
- Ratified the India-Pakistan Non-Attack Agreement in January 1991.
- Signed the Lahore Agreement with Pakistan in February 1999 to reduce the risk of an accidental or unauthorized use of nuclear weapons.
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- The positioning of military forces – conventional and/or nuclear – in conjunction with military planning.
- Submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM)
- SLBM: A ballistic missile that is carried on and launched from a submarine.
- Fissile material
- Fissile material: A type of fissionable material capable of sustaining a chain reaction by undergoing fission upon the absorption of low-energy (or thermal) neutrons. Uranium-235, Plutonium-239, and Uranium-233 are the most prominently discussed fissile materials for peaceful and nuclear weapons purposes.
- Plutonium (Pu)
- Plutonium (Pu): A transuranic element with atomic number 94, produced when uranium is irradiated in a reactor. It is used primarily in nuclear weapons and, along with uranium, in mixed-oxide (MOX) fuel. Plutonium-239, a fissile isotope, is the most suitable isotope for use in nuclear weapons.
- Weapons-grade material
- Weapons-grade material: Refers to the nuclear materials that are most suitable for the manufacture of nuclear weapons, e.g., uranium (U) enriched to 90 percent U-235 or plutonium (Pu) that is primarily composed of Pu-239 and contains less than 7% Pu-240. Crude nuclear weapons (i.e., improvised nuclear devices), could be fabricated from lower-grade materials.
- Highly enriched uranium (HEU)
- Highly enriched uranium (HEU): Refers to uranium with a concentration of more than 20% of the isotope U-235. Achieved via the process of enrichment. See entry for enriched uranium.
- Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT)
- The NPT: Signed in 1968, the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) is the most widely adhered-to international security agreement. The “three pillars” of the NPT are nuclear disarmament, nonproliferation, and peaceful uses of nuclear energy. Article VI of the NPT commits states possessing nuclear weapons to negotiate in good faith toward halting the arms race and the complete elimination of nuclear weapons. The Treaty stipulates that non-nuclear-weapon states will not seek to acquire nuclear weapons, and will accept International Atomic Energy Agency safeguards on their nuclear activities, while nuclear weapon states commit not to transfer nuclear weapons to other states. All states have a right to the peaceful use of nuclear energy, and should assist one another in its development. The NPT provides for conferences of member states to review treaty implementation at five-year intervals. Initially of a 25-year duration, the NPT was extended indefinitely in 1995. For additional information, see the NPT.
- Though there is no agreed-upon legal definition of what disarmament entails within the context of international agreements, a general definition is the process of reducing the quantity and/or capabilities of military weapons and/or military forces.
- Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty (FMCT)
- The Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty us currently under discussion in the Conference on Disarmament (CD) to end the production of weapons-usable fissile material (highly enriched uranium and plutonium) for nuclear weapons. For additional information, see the FMCT.
- Partial Test Ban Treaty (PTBT)
- The PTBT: Also known as the Limited Test Ban Treaty (LTBT), the Treaty Banning Nuclear Weapons Tests in the Atmosphere, in Outer Space and Under Water prohibits nuclear weapons tests "or any other nuclear explosion" in the atmosphere, in outer space, and under water. While the treaty does not ban tests underground, it does prohibit nuclear explosions in this environment if they cause "radioactive debris to be present outside the territorial limits of the State under whose jurisdiction or control" the explosions were conducted. The treaty is of unlimited duration. For additional information, see the PTBT.
- Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT)
- The CTBT: Opened for signature in 1996 at the UN General Assembly, the CTBT prohibits all nuclear testing if it enters into force. The treaty establishes the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO) to ensure the implementation of its provisions and verify compliance through a global monitoring system upon entry into force. Pending the treaty’s entry into force, the Preparatory Commission of the CTBTO is charged with establishing the International Monitoring System (IMS) and promoting treaty ratifications. CTBT entry into force is contingent on ratification by 44 Annex II states. For additional information, see the CTBT.
- Non-Aligned Movement (NAM)
- The Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) was formed during the Cold War as an organization of states that did not seek to formally align themselves with either the United States or the Soviet Union, but sought to remain independent or neutral. NAM identifies the right of independent judgment, the struggle against imperialism and neo-colonialism, and the use of moderation in relations with all big powers as the three basic elements that have influenced its approach. For additional information, see the NAM.
- Nuclear-weapon states (NWS)
- NWS: As defined by Article IX, paragraph 3 of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT), the five states that detonated a nuclear device prior to 1 January 1967 (China, France, the Soviet Union, the United Kingdom, and the United States). Coincidentally, these five states are also permanent members of the UN Security Council. States that acquired and/or tested nuclear weapons subsequently are not internationally recognized as nuclear-weapon states.
- The introduction of nuclear weapons, or other weapons of mass destruction, into a conflict. In agreeing to a "no-first-use" policy, a country states that it will not use nuclear weapons first, but only under retaliatory circumstances. See entry for No-First-Use
- Non-nuclear weapon state (NNWS)
- Non-nuclear weapon state (NNWS): Under the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT), NNWS are states that had not detonated a nuclear device prior to 1 January 1967, and who agree in joining the NPT to refrain from pursuing nuclear weapons (that is, all state parties to the NPT other than the United States, the Soviet Union/Russia, the United Kingdom, France, and China).
- Ratification: The implementation of the formal process established by a country to legally bind its government to a treaty, such as approval by a parliament. In the United States, treaty ratification requires approval by the president after he or she has received the advice and consent of two-thirds of the Senate. Following ratification, a country submits the requisite legal instrument to the treaty’s depository governments Procedures to ratify a treaty follow its signature.
See entries for Entry into force and Signature.
- India-Pakistan Non-Attack Agreement
- The India-Pakistan Non-Attack Agreement is a unique bilateral agreement that obligates India and Pakistan to refrain from undertaking, encouraging, or participating in actions aimed at causing destruction or damage to nuclear installations or facilities in each country. For additional information, see the India-Pakistan Non-Attack Agreement.
- Lahore Declaration
- The Lahore Declaration is an agreement in which India and Pakistan pledged to “take immediate steps for reducing the risk of accidental or unauthorized use of nuclear weapons and discuss concepts and doctrines with a view to elaborating measures for confidence building in the nuclear and conventional fields, aimed at prevention of conflict.” For additional information, see the NTI Inventory.
- Gusti Agung Wesaka Puja, “Statement 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,” Reaching Critical Will, May 4, 2012, www.reachingcriticalwill.com.
- “India Pakistan Non-Attack Agreement,” Nuclear Threat Initiative, www.nti.org.
- “Country Profile; India,” International Panel on Fissile Materials, February 12, 2018, http://fissilematerials.org.
- Hans M. Kristensen and Matt Korda, “Indian Nuclear Forces, 2020,” Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists 76, no. 4, July 20, 2020, www.thebulletin.org.
- A. Vinod Kumar, “India and the CTBT: The Debate in New Delhi,” Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, November 4, 2009, www.thebulletin.org.
- “Lahore Agreement,” Nuclear Threat Initiative, www.nti.org.
- Zia Mian, M.V. Ramana, and R. Rajaraman, “India,” Reducing and Eliminating Nuclear Weapons: Country Perspectives on the Challenges to Nuclear Disarmament, International Panel on Fissile Materials, May 2010, www.fissilematerials.org.
- Devirupa Mitra, “India Joins Boycott of Nuclear Weapons Ban Treaty Talks by Big Powers,” The Wire, March 29, 2017, www.thewire.in.
- Sachin Parashar, “FMCT: India sticks to stand, Pak dithers,” Times of India, September 24, 2010, www.articles.timesofindia.indiatimes.com.
- M.V. Ramana, “India,” Assuring Destruction Forever: 2015 Edition, Reaching Critical Will, April 2015, www.reachingcriticalwill.org.
- Lora Saalman, “India’s no-first-use dilemma: Strategic consistency or ambiguity towards China and Pakistan,” Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, December 2, 2020, www.sipri.org.
- Sharon Squassoni and Amelia Armitage, “Reinforcing International Norms against Nuclear Testing,” Center for Strategic and International Studies, September 23, 2016, www.csis.org.
- United Nations, “Treaty banning nuclear weapon tests in the atmosphere, in outer space and under water,” United Nations Treaty Collection, https://treaties.un.org.