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Nuclear Disarmament India

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Nuclear Disarmament India

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Arsenal and Missile Types

Non-NPT State with Nuclear Weapons

Arsenal Size

  • Estimated stockpile: 130 to 140 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
  • Nuclear submarines: The INS Arihant SSBN was commissioned in August 2016. 3 In August 2018, India successfully test-fired three K-15 ballistic missiles (SLBMs): from the INS Arihant. 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), Agni-V intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM). 7

Capabilities and Developments

Estimated Destructive Power

  • Unknown, likely over two megatons 8
  • 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. 9

Estimated Military Fissile Material Stockpiles

  • All Indian nuclear weapons are believed to be plutonium based. India earmarks its HEU for its nuclear submarine program. 10
  • 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. 11
  • Weapons-grade HEU: Estimated 3.2 ± 0.9 tons. 12
  • India’s amount of available plutonium is enough to produce an additional 100 nuclear bombs. 13
  • 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. 14
  • Commissioned a Prototype Fast Breeder Reactor (PFBR) at Kalpakkam, which could produce enough material for 30 nuclear weapons per year. 15
  • Produces HEU at the Rare Materials Plant in Rattehalli, Mysore. A second enrichment plant has been proposed in Chitradurga. 16

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. 17
  • 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.” 18

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. 19
  • 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. 20
  • Attended the previous three conferences on the Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear Weapons—Oslo, 2013; Nayarit, 2014; Vienna, 2014. 21
  • 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. 22

Nuclear Weapons Related Policies

Nuclear Testing Policy

  • Has observed nuclear testing moratorium since May 1998. 23
  • Party to the Partial Test Ban Treaty (banning atmospheric, outer space, and underwater testing). 24
  • 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. 25

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. 26
  • Maintains a doctrine of credible minimum nuclear deterrence which is ambiguously defined, suggesting that India keeps a small but survivable nuclear force. 27
  • Ratified the India-Pakistan Non-Attack Agreement in January 1991. 28
  • Signed the Lahore Agreement in February 1999. 29

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The positioning of military forces – conventional and/or nuclear – in conjunction with military planning.
Ship, Submersible, Ballistic, Nuclear: A hull classification for a submarine capable of launching a ballistic missile. The "N", or nuclear, refers to the ship's propulsion system. SSBN's are generally reserved for strategic vessels, as most submarine launched ballistic missiles carry nuclear payloads. A non-strategic vessel carries the designation SSN, or attack submarine.
Submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM)
SLBM: A ballistic missile that is carried on and launched from a submarine.
Cruise missile
An unmanned self-propelled guided vehicle that sustains flight through aerodynamic lift for most of its flight path. There are subsonic and supersonic cruise missiles currently deployed in conventional and nuclear arsenals, while conventional hypersonic cruise missiles are currently in development. These can be launched from the air, submarines, or the ground. Although they carry smaller payloads, travel at slower speeds, and cover lesser ranges than ballistic missiles, cruise missiles can be programmed to travel along customized flight paths and to evade missile defense systems.
Tactical nuclear weapons
Short-range nuclear weapons, such as artillery shells, bombs, and short-range missiles, deployed for use in battlefield operations.
Ballistic missile
A delivery vehicle powered by a liquid or solid fueled rocket that primarily travels in a ballistic (free-fall) trajectory.  The flight of a ballistic missile includes three phases: 1) boost phase, where the rocket generates thrust to launch the missile into flight; 2) midcourse phase, where the missile coasts in an arc under the influence of gravity; and 3) terminal phase, in which the missile descends towards its target.  Ballistic missiles can be characterized by three key parameters - range, payload, and Circular Error Probable (CEP), or targeting precision.  Ballistic missiles are primarily intended for use against ground targets.
Intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM)
Intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM): A ballistic missile with a range greater than 5,500 km. See entry for ballistic missile.
Megaton (MT)
Megaton (MT): The energy equivalent released by 1,000 kilotons (1,000,000 tons) of trinitrotoluene (TNT) explosive. Typically used as the unit of measurement to express the amount of energy released by a nuclear bomb.
Thermonuclear weapon
Thermonuclear weapon: A nuclear weapon in which the fusion of light nuclei, such as deuterium and tritium, leads to a significantly higher explosive yield than in a regular fission weapon. Thermonuclear weapons are sometimes referred to as staged weapons, because the initial fission reaction (the first stage) creates the condition under which the thermonuclear reaction can occur (the second stage). Also archaically referred to as a hydrogen bomb.
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.
Reprocessing: The chemical treatment of spent nuclear fuel to separate the remaining usable plutonium and uranium for re-fabrication into fuel, or alternatively, to extract the plutonium for use in nuclear weapons.
Enriched uranium
Enriched uranium: Uranium with an increased concentration of the isotope U-235, relative to natural uranium. Natural uranium contains 0.7 percent U-235, whereas nuclear weapons typically require uranium enriched to very high levels (see the definitions for “highly enriched uranium” and “weapons-grade”). Nuclear power plant fuel typically uses uranium enriched to 3 to 5 percent U-235, material that is not sufficiently enriched to be used for nuclear weapons.
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.
Conference on Disarmament (CD)
The CD is an international forum focused on multilateral disarmament efforts. Although it reports to the UN General Assembly and has a relationship with the United Nations, it adopts its own rules of procedure and agenda, giving it some degree of independence. The CD has a permanent agenda devoted to the negotiation of disarmament issues. The CD and its predecessors have negotiated major nonproliferation and disarmament agreements such as the NPT, the BTWC, the CWC, and the CTBT. In recent years, the CD has focused on negotiating a treaty banning the production of fissile material for nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices; the prevention of an arms race in outer space (PAROS); and negative security assurances. For additional information, see the CD.
Multilateral: Negotiations, agreements or treaties that are concluded among three or more parties, countries, etc.
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).
The actions of a state or group of states to dissuade a potential adversary from initiating an attack or conflict through the credible threat of retaliation. To be effective, a deterrence strategy should demonstrate to an adversary that the costs of an attack would outweigh any potential gains. See entries for Extended deterrence and nuclear deterrence.
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.


  1. Hans M. Kristensen and Matt Korda, “Indian Nuclear Forces, 2018,” Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists 74, no. 6, 1 November 2018, www.thebulletin.org.
  2. Franz-Stefen Gady, “India Test Fires Short-Range Ballistic Missiles From Submerged Sub,” The Diplomat, 22 August 2018, www.thediplomat.com.
  3. Franz-Stefan Gady, “India Quietly Commissions Deadliest Sub,” The Diplomat, 19 October 2016, www.thediplomat.com.
  4. Franz-Stefan Gady, “India Quietly Commissions Deadliest Sub,” The Diplomat, 19 October 2016, www.thediplomat.com.
  5. Hans M. Kristensen and Matt Korda, “Indian Nuclear Forces, 2018,” Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists 74, no. 6, 1 November 2018, www.thebulletin.org.
  6. “Strategic Weapons Systems,” Jane’s Sentinel Security Assessment-South Asia, 23 February 2017; “Missiles of India,” CSIS Missile Defense Project, www.missilethreat.csis.org.
  7. Hans M. Kristensen and Matt Korda, “Indian Nuclear Forces, 2018,” Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists 74, no. 6, 1 November 2018, www.thebulletin.org.
  8. 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.
  9. Carey Sublette, “What are the Real Yields of India’s Test?” Nuclear Weapon Archive, 8 November 2001, www.nuclearweaponarchive.org; M.V Ramana, “India,” Assuring Destruction Forever, Reaching Critical Will, March 2012, www.reachingcriticalwill.org.
  10. M.V Ramana, “India,” Assuring Destruction Forever by Reaching Critical Will, March 2012, www.reachingcriticalwill.org.Zia Mian, Alexander Glaser, “Global Fissile Material Report 2015. Nuclear weapons and fissile material stockpiles and production,” Presentation at NPT Review Conference, 8 May 2015, United Nations, New York, https://fissilematerials.org.
  11. M.V Ramana, “India,” Still Assuring Destruction Forever: An Update to the 2012 Report, Reaching Critical Will, March 2013, www.reachingcriticalwill.org; Zia Mian, Alexander Glaser, “Global Fissile Material Report 2015: Nuclear weapons and fissile material stockpiles and production,” Presentation at NPT Review Conference, 8 May 2015, United Nations, New York, https://fissilematerials.org; “International Panel on Fissile Material: India,” International Panel on Fissile Materials, 11 April 2016, https://fissilematerials.org.
  12. A. Vinod Kumar, “Reforming the NPT to include India,” Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, 1 May 2010, www.thebulletin.org.
  13. M.V. Ramana, “India,” Assuring Destruction Forever: 2015 Edition, Reaching Critical Will, April 2015, www.reachingcriticalwill.org.
  14. M.V. Ramana, “India,” Assuring Destruction Forever: 2015 Edition, Reaching Critical Will, April 2015, www.reachingcriticalwill.org.
  15. M.V. Ramana, “India,” Assuring Destruction Forever: 2015 Edition, Reaching Critical Will, April 2015, www.reachingcriticalwill.org.
  16. M.V. Ramana, “India,” Assuring Destruction Forever: 2015 Edition, Reaching Critical Will, April 2015, www.reachingcriticalwill.org.
  17. M.V. Ramana, “India,” Assuring Destruction Forever: 2015 Edition, Reaching Critical Will, April 2015, www.reachingcriticalwill.org.
  18. Zia Mian, M.V. Ramana, 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; “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, 30 May 2013.
  19. “FMCT: India sticks to stand, Pak dithers,” The Times of India, 24 September 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, 14 July 2006, www.csis.org.
  20. Ambassador D.B. Venkatesh Varma, Statement on Nuclear Disarmament at the Conference on Disarmament, 24 February 2015, www.reachingcriticalwill.org.
  21. “Revised List of Participants,” Conference: The Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear Weapons, 4-5 March 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, 8-9 December 2015, www.reachingcriticalwill.org.
  22. Devirupa Mitra, “India Joins Boycott of Nuclear Weapons Ban Treaty Talks by Big Powers,” The Wire, 29 March 2017, www.thewire.in.
  23. Somini Sangupta, “India Debates Its Right to Nuclear Testing,” The New York Times, 21 April 2007.
  24. India: Inventory of International Nonproliferation Organizations and Regimes, James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies, updated 18 November 2010, www.nonproliferation.org.
  25. A. Vinod Kumar, “India and the CTBT: The Debate in New Delhi,” Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists: Web Edition, 4 November 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, 4 May 2012, www.reachingcriticalwill.com.
  26. Nirupama Rao, “Address by Foreign Secretary at National Defence College on ‘Challenges in India’s Foreign Policy,’” Indian Ministry of External Affairs, 19 November 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.
  27. M.V Ramana, “India,” Assuring Destruction Forever: 2015 Edition, Reaching Critical Will, April 2015, www.reachingcriticalwill.org.
  28. India Pakistan Non-Attack Agreement, Nuclear Threat Initiative, www.nti.org.
  29. Lahore Agreement, Nuclear Threat Initiative, www.nti.org.


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