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Last Updated: June, 2019

India is a nuclear weapons possessing state outside of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (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 joining many of the major export control regimes, including the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR), the Wassenaar Arrangement, and the Australia Group.

Since its independence in 1947, India has been engaged in territorial disputes with Pakistan, which have sparked conventional war between the two countries on several occasions. With Pakistan’s first nuclear test in 1998 and the subsequent nuclear arms race between India and Pakistan, the two nations’ conflict now carries the potential risk of nuclear escalation.


India is not a member of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) or the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), but is a state party to the Partial Test Ban Treaty (PTBT). India embarked on a nuclear energy program in 1948 and a nuclear explosives program in 1964. [1] The latter culminated in India’s May 1974 test of a "peaceful nuclear explosion," which provoked global condemnation and proliferation concerns. Following five nuclear weapons tests in May 1998, India formally declared itself a nuclear weapons state. [2]

According to the 2018 SIPRI Yearbook, the Indian arsenal comprises 130 to 140 nuclear warheads. [3] India has one operational Arihant-class nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarine (SSBN), which completed its first deterrence patrol in November 2018, and has one more submarine currently undergoing sea trials. [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 addition to the Mirage 2000 and the Jaguar, a $10 million deal with France will add 36 nuclear-capable Rafale fighter jets to India’s delivery arsenal. [5]

India and the United States announced a nuclear cooperation initiative in July 2005 that would permit India to participate in international nuclear trade, under certain conditions. [6] In 2008, India negotiated a limited safeguards agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). [7] Subsequently, in October 2008, India and the United States signed a bilateral 123 nuclear cooperation agreement. In June of 2014, India ratified a version of the IAEA Additional Protocol after a 5-year delay. [8] India also seeks to join the NSG, but China has continually blocked India’s membership bid. [9]

Estimates in 2018 put India's highly enriched uranium (HEU) stockpile at 4.0 ± 1.4 tons and its weapons-grade plutonium stockpile at 0.58 ± 0.15 tons. [10] India has increased enrichment capabilities at the Indian Rare Metals Plant near Mysore in Karnataka to fuel its expanding domestic nuclear power production and continues to operate its Dhruva plutonium-generating reactor. [11] This expansion of fissile material stocks has provoked speculation about India’s interest in thermonuclear weapon development. [12]


No credible evidence shows that India has ever developed or produced biological weapons. Yet with one of the world’s largest pharmaceutical industries, India has an extensive dual-use capability. [13] India has also researched detecting and countering various diseases for defensive purposes. [14] India ratified the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention (BTWC) in 1974. In 2018, India became a member of the Australia Group export control regime.


India disclosed its chemical weapons possessions in June 1997 after years of denials. 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. [15] In March 2009, India announced that it had destroyed all of its chemical weapons stocks in accordance with the CWC. [16] In 2018, India became a member of the Australia Group export control regime.


Since the 1980’s, India has sought to develop and deploy ballistic and other types of missiles. India currently possesses several types of operational nuclear-capable land-based ballistic missiles, submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs), and cruise missiles. [17] India is testing its first intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), the Agni-V, with a range of more than 5,000 km. [18] These tests have provoked negative reactions from China, which views them as a potential threat to the strategic balance in East Asia. [19] India is developing newer missile systems that have greater accuracy and increased range to enhance India’s land and sea-based deterrent. [20] India and Russia jointly developed a supersonic cruise missile, the Brahmos, in 2001; a hypersonic version is currently under development. [21] India has also been developing Anti-Satellite Weapon (ASAT) capabilities and has successfully carried out an ASAT missile test in March 2019. [22]

In January 2015, India and the United States issued a joint statement that indicated American backing for India’s phased entry into the NSG, MTCR, the Wassenaar Arrangement, and the Australia Group. [23] Despite being blocked by China from joining the NSG, India acceded to the MTCR in June 2016. [24] In addition, India was admitted into the Wassenaar Arrangement in December 2017 and the Australia Group in January 2018. [25]

[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,
[3] Shannon N. Kile and Hans M. Kristensen, “6. World Nuclear Forces,” in SIPRI Yearbook 2018: Armaments, Disarmament and International Security, eds. Dan Smith, (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2018), p. 267-272.
[4] Rakesh Krishnan Simha, “Why INS Arihant Gives India an Edge Against Its Neighbours,” Business Today, 20 November 2018,; Franz-Stefan Gady, “India Launches Second Ballistic Missile Sub,” The Diplomat, 13 December 2017,
[5] “Dassault Aviation Welcomes Top Court’s Ruling on Rafale Deal,” New Delhi Television, 15 December 2018,
[6] 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.
[7] International Atomic Energy Agency, "Nuclear Verification: The Conclusion of Safeguards Agreements and Additional Protocols," (Agreement Text), 9 July 2008,
[8] Robert Kelley and Karl Dewey, “India Ratifies Nuclear Inspections Protocol After Five-Year Delay,” Jane’s Defense Weekly, 2 July 2014,
[9] Rajeswari Pillai Rajagopalan, “Can India Make Headway in the Nuclear Suppliers Group in 2018?” The Diplomat, 14 June 2018,
[10] "Countries: India," International Panel on Fissile Materials, 12 February 2018,
[11] Brian Cloghley and Robert Kelley, “Nuclear Option – India Increases Its Uranium Enrichment Programme,” Jane’s Intelligence Review, 5 June 2014,; "Countries: India," International Panel on Fissile Materials, 12 February 2018,
[12] Adrian Levy, “India Is Building a Top-Secret Nuclear City to Produce Thermonuclear Weapons, Experts Say,” Foreign Policy, 16 December 2015,
[13] Ansuman Tripathy, “India Emerges a Top Five Pharmaceuticals Markets of the World,” Businessworld, 5 May 2018,
[14] Basrur, Rajesh M., Joseph, Mallika, "Chemical Biological, Radiological and Nuclear Terrorism Threats: A Case Study on India," Landau Network- Centro Volta South Asia Security Project: Case Study 1/2007, December 2007, pp 14,; "Dr. Saraswat Inaugurates State of the Art Chem-Bio Sensor Facility," DRDO Press Release, 24 May 2012,
[15] 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 5-8 December 2006," Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, December 2006,
[16] "Update on Chemical Demilitarisation," Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, 21 April 2009,
[17] Hans M. Kristensen and Matt Korda, “Indian Nuclear Forces,” Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, 74, No. 6 (2018), p. 361-366.
[18] Alicia Sanders-Zakre, “India’s Agni-5 ICBM Advances,” Arms Control Association, 1 October 2018,
[19] Arun Sahgal, “Why India’s ICBM Tests Rile China,” The Diplomat, 14 January 2017,
[20] “Strategic Weapons Systems,” IHS Jane’s Sentinel Security Assessment – South Asia, 12 February 2014,
[21] Missile Defense Project, "BrahMos," Missile Threat, Center for Strategic and International Studies, 15 June 2018,; Franz-Stefan Gady, “India Successfully Test Fires Indigenous Nuclear-Capable Cruise Missile,” The Diplomat, 8 November 2018,
[22] Sanjeev Miglani and Krishna N. Das, “Modi Hails India as Military Space Power After Anti-Satellite Missile Test,” Reuters, 27 March, 2019,
[23] “Caution needs to be exercised on India’s NSG inclusion: China,” The Economic Times, 26 January 2015,; “U.S.-India Joint Statement – ‘Shared Effort; Progress for All’,” White House Office of the Press Secretary, 25 January 2015,
[24] “India joins elite missile control group,” BBC, 28 June 2016,
[25] Ankit Panda, “Wassenaar Arrangement Admits India as Its 42nd Member,” The Diplomat, 8 December 2017,; Ministry of External Affairs of India, “India Joins the Australia Group (AG),” Press Release, 19 January 2018,

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

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 2019.