Military Wiki
Location of India
Nuclear program start date 1967
First nuclear weapon test 18 May 1974 (Smiling Buddha)
First fusion weapon test 11 May 1998 (declared)[1]
Last nuclear test 13 May 1998
Largest yield test 20–60 kt total in Pokhran-II (yield is disputed)[2][3]
Total tests 6
Peak stockpile 90–110 (2013 est.)[4]
Current stockpile 90–110 (2013 est.)[4]
Maximum missile range 5000 km (Agni III)[5][6]
NPT signatory No

India is known to possess nuclear weapons, and in the past possessed chemical weapons. Though India has not made any official statements about the size of its nuclear arsenal, recent estimates suggest that India has between 90 and 110 nuclear weapons,[4] consistent with earlier estimates that it had produced enough weapons-grade plutonium for up to 75–110 nuclear weapons.[7] As of 1999, India was estimated to have 4200 kg of separated reactor-grade plutonium from its power reactors, which is equivalent to roughly 1000 nuclear weapons.[8][9] India is not a signatory to the 1968 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), which India argues entrenches the status quo of the existing nuclear weapons states whilst preventing general nuclear disarmament.[10]

India has signed and ratified both the Biological Weapons Convention and the Chemical Weapons Convention.

Biological weapons

India has a well-developed biotechnology infrastructure that includes numerous pharmaceutical production facilities bio-containment laboratories (including BSL-3 and BSL-4) for working with lethal pathogens. It also has highly qualified scientists with expertise in infectious diseases. Some of India's facilities are being used to support research and development for BW defence purposes. India has ratified the BWC and pledges to abide by its obligations. There is no clear evidence, circumstantial or otherwise, that directly points toward an offensive BW program. New Delhi does possess the scientific capability and infrastructure to launch an offensive BW program, but has chosen not to do so. In terms of delivery, India also possesses the capability to produce aerosols and has numerous potential delivery systems ranging from crop dusters to sophisticated ballistic missiles.[11]

No information exists in the public domain suggesting interest by the Indian government in delivery of biological agents by these or any other means. To reiterate the latter point, in October 2002, Indian President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam asserted that "we [India] will not make biological weapons. It is cruel to human beings..."[11]

Chemical weapons

In 1992 India signed the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC), stating that it did not have chemical weapons and the capacity or capability to manufacture chemical weapons. By doing this India became one of the original signatories of the Chemical Weapons Convention [CWC] in 1993,[12] and ratified it on 2 September 1996. According to India's ex-Army Chief General Sunderji, a country having the capability of making nuclear weapons does not need to have chemical weapons, since the dread of chemical weapons could be created only in those countries that do not have nuclear weapons. Others suggested that the fact that India has found chemical weapons dispensable highlighted its confidence in the conventional weapons system at its command.

In June 1997, India declared its stock of chemical weapons (1,044 tonnes of sulphur mustard).[13][14] By the end of 2006, India had destroyed more than 75 percent of its chemical weapons/material stockpile and was granted extension for destroying (the remaining stocks by April 2009) and was expected to achieve 100 percent destruction within that timeframe.[13] India informed the United Nations in May 2009 that it had destroyed its stockpile of chemical weapons in compliance with the international Chemical Weapons Convention. With this India has become third country after South Korea and Albania to do so.[15][16] This was cross-checked by inspectors of the United Nations.

India has an advanced commercial chemical industry, and produces the bulk of its own chemicals for domestic consumption. It is also widely acknowledged that India has an extensive civilian chemical and pharmaceutical industry and annually exports considerable quantities of chemicals to countries such as the United Kingdom, United States, and Taiwan.[17]

Nuclear weapons

As early as 26 June 1946, Jawaharlal Nehru, soon to be India's first Prime Minister, announced:

As long as the world is constituted as it is, every country will have to devise and use the latest devices for its protection. I have no doubt India will develop her scientific researches and I hope Indian scientists will use the atomic force for constructive purposes. But if India is threatened, she will inevitably try to defend herself by all means at her disposal.[18]

India's nuclear program started on March 1944 and its three-stage indigenous efforts in technology were established by Dr. Homi Bhabha when he founded the nuclear research center, the Institute of Fundamental Research.[19][20] India's loss of territory to China in a brief Himilayan border war in October 1962, provided the New Delhi government impetus for developing nuclear weapons as a means of deterring potential Chinese aggression.[21] India first tested a nuclear device in 1974 (code-named "Smiling Buddha"), which it called a "peaceful nuclear explosion." The test used plutonium produced in the Canadian-supplied CIRUS reactor, and raised concerns that nuclear technology supplied for peaceful purposes could be diverted to weapons purposes. This also stimulated the early work of the Nuclear Suppliers Group.[22] India performed further nuclear tests in 1998 (code-named "Operation Shakti"). In 1998, as a response to the continuing tests, the United States and Japan imposed sanctions on India, which have since been lifted.[citation needed]

A conspiracy theory popular in the Muslim world is that the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami was caused by an Indian nuclear test that Israeli and American experts participated in.[23]

India's no-first-use policy

India has a declared nuclear no-first-use policy and is in the process of developing a nuclear doctrine based on "credible minimum deterrence." In August 1999, the Indian government released a draft of the doctrine[24] which asserts that nuclear weapons are solely for deterrence and that India will pursue a policy of "retaliation only". The document also maintains that India "will not be the first to initiate a nuclear first strike, but will respond with punitive retaliation should deterrence fail" and that decisions to authorise the use of nuclear weapons would be made by the Prime Minister or his 'designated successor(s).'"[24] According to the NRDC, despite the escalation of tension between India and Pakistan in 2001–2002, India remained committed to its nuclear no-first-use policy.

India's Strategic Nuclear Command was formally established in 2003, with an Air Force officer, Air Marshal Asthana, as the Commander-in-Chief. The joint services SNC is the custodian of all of India's nuclear weapons, missiles and assets. It is also responsible for executing all aspects of India's nuclear policy. However, the civil leadership, in the form of the CCS (Cabinet Committee on Security) is the only body authorised to order a nuclear strike against another offending strike: In effect, it is the Prime Minister who has his finger "on the button." The National Security Advisor Shivshankar Menon signalled a significant shift from "No first use" to "no first use against non-nuclear weapon states" in a speech on the occasion of Golden Jubilee celebrations of National Defence College in New Delhi on 21 October 2010, a doctrine Menon said reflected India's "strategic culture, with its emphasis on minimal deterrence."[25][26] In April 2013 Shyam Saran, convener of the National Security Advisory Board, affirmed that regardless of the size of a nuclear attack against India, be it a miniaturised version or a "big" missile, India will retaliate massively to inflict unacceptable damage.[27]

Land-based ballistic missiles

The Agni II of the Indian Army on parade.

The land-based nuclear weapons of India are under the control of and deployed by the Indian Army, using a variety of both vehicles and launching silos. They currently consist of three different types of ballistic missiles, the Agni-I, the Agni-II, Agni-III and the Army's variant of the Prithvi missile family – the Prithvi-I. Additional variants of the Agni missile series are currently under-development, including the most recent, the Agni-IV and Agni-V, which are due to enter full operational service in the near future. Agni-VI is also under development, with an envisioned range of 6000–8000 km and features such as Multiple independently targetable reentry vehicles (MIRVs) or Maneuverable reentry vehicles (MARVs).[28][29]

Land-based nuclear armed ballistic missiles
Missile name Type Maximum range Operational status
Agni-I Short-range ballistic missile 700 km Operationally deployed.
Agni-II Medium-range ballistic missile 2,500 km Operationally deployed.
Agni-III Intermediate-range ballistic missile 5,000 km Operationally deployed.
Prithvi-I Short-range ballistic missile 150 km Operationally deployed.
Agni-IV Intermediate-range ballistic missile 4,000 km Successfully Tested.
Agni-V Intercontinental ballistic missile > 5,500 km Successfully Tested.
Agni-VI Intercontinental ballistic missile 10,000 km Under development.

Strategic bombing

The Jaguar ground-attack aircraft of the Indian Air Force are often believed to have a secondary nuclear-strike role.

The current status of India's air-based nuclear weapons is unclear. However the Dassault Mirage 2000s and the SEPECAT Jaguars of the Indian Air Force are often believed to have a secondary nuclear-strike role in addition to their ground-attack roles.[30] The SEPECAT Jaguar ground-attack aircraft were designed by the United Kingdom and France to be capable of delivering nuclear weapons, and the Indian Air Force has identified the jet as being capable of delivering nuclear weapons if required.[31] The most likely delivery would be through the use of unguided, free-falling nuclear bombs.[32]

Sea-based ballistic missiles

Conceptual drawing of the INS Arihant.

Surface warships such as the Shivalik class frigates (shown) may in future be equipped with the nuclear armed Dhanush ballistic missiles.

The Indian Navy has developed two sea-based delivery systems for nuclear weapons, completing Indian ambitions for a nuclear triad.

The first is a submarine-launched system consisting of at-least four 6,000 tonne (nuclear-powered) ballistic missile submarines of the Arihant class. The first vessel, INS Arihant, has been launched and will complete extensive sea-trials before being commissioned and declared operational. She is the first nuclear-powered submarine to be built by India.[33][34] A CIA report claimed that Russia provided technological aid to the naval nuclear propulsion program.[35][36] The submarines will be armed with up to 12 Sagarika (K-15) missiles armed with nuclear warheads. Sagarika is a submarine-launched ballistic missile with a range of 700 km. This missile has a length of 8.5 meters, weighs seven tonnes and can carry a pay load of up to 500 kg.[37] Sagarika has already been test-fired from an underwater pontoon, but now DRDO is planning a full-fledged test of the missile from a submarine and for this purpose may use the services of the Russian Navy.[38] India's DRDO is also working on a submarine-launched ballistic missile version of the Agni-III missile, known as the Agni-III SL. According to Indian defence sources, the Agni-III SL will have a range of 3,500 kilometres (2,200 mi).[39] The new missile will complement the older and less capable Sagarika submarine-launched ballistic missiles. However, the Arihant class ballistic missile submarines will be only capable of carrying a maximum of four Agni-III SL.

The second is a ship-launched system based around the short range ship-launched Dhanush ballistic missile (a variant of the Prithvi missile). It has a range of around 300 km. In the year 2000 the missile was test-fired from INS Subhadra (a Sukanya class patrol craft). INS Subhadra was modified for the test and the missile was launched from the reinforced helicopter deck. The results were considered partially successful.[40] In 2004, the missile was again tested from INS Subhadra and this time the results were reported successful.[41] In December 2005 of the following year the missile was tested again, but this time from the destroyer INS Rajput. The test was a success with the missile hitting the land based target.[42]

Sea-based nuclear armed ballistic missiles
Missile name Type Maximum range Operational status
Dhanush Intermediate-range ballistic missile 350 km Developed, but not operationally deployed.
K-4 Submarine-launched ballistic missile 3,500 km Under development.
Sagarika (K-15) Submarine-launched ballistic missile 700 km Awaiting operational deployment on INS Arihant.

International response

India is not a signatory to either the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) or the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), but did accede to the Partial Test Ban Treaty in October 1963. India is a member of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), and four of its 17 nuclear reactors are subject to IAEA safeguards. India announced its lack of intention to accede to the NPT as late as 1997 by voting against the paragraph of a General Assembly Resolution[43] which urged all non-signatories of the treaty to accede to it at the earliest possible date.[44] India voted against the UN General Assembly resolution endorsing the CTBT, which was adopted on 10 September 1996. India objected to the lack of provision for universal nuclear disarmament "within a time-bound framework." India also demanded that the treaty ban laboratory simulations. In addition, India opposed the provision in Article XIV of the CTBT that requires India's ratification for the treaty to enter into force, which India argued was a violation of its sovereign right to choose whether it would sign the treaty. In early February 1997, Foreign Minister I.K.Gujral reiterated India's opposition to the treaty, saying that "India favors any step aimed at destroying nuclear weapons, but considers that the treaty in its current form is not comprehensive and bans only certain types of tests."

In August 2008, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) approved safeguards agreement with India under which the former will gradually gain access to India's civilian nuclear reactors.[45] In September 2008, the Nuclear Suppliers Group granted India a waiver allowing it to access civilian nuclear technology and fuel from other countries.[46] The implementation of this waiver makes India the only known country with nuclear weapons which is not a party to the NPT but is still allowed to carry out nuclear commerce with the rest of the world.[47]

Since the implementation of NSG waiver, India has signed nuclear deals with several countries including France,[48] United States,[49] Mongolia, Namibia,[50] and Kazakhstan[51] while the framework for similar deals with Australia, Canada and United Kingdom are also being prepared.[52][53]

See also


  1. For more readings and citations, see :Thermonuclear weapon yield estimations of the Operation Shakti
  2. Sachin Parashar, TNN, 28 August 2009, 12.55am IST (28 August 2009). "Kalam certifies Pokharan II, Santhanam stands his ground – India". The Times of India. Retrieved 31 August 2010. 
  3. Carey Sublette. "What Are the Real Yields of India's Test?". Carey Sublette. Retrieved 12 January 2013. 
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 "Federation of American Scientists: Status of World Nuclear Forces". Early 2013. Retrieved 4 June 2013. 
  5. Statement given by Mr. Shyam Saran (Chairman of India's National Security Advisory Board) on 25 April 2013 Is India’s Nuclear Deterrent Credible?
    Quote:"These include a modest arsenal, nuclear capable aircraft and missiles both in fixed underground silos as well as those which are mounted on mobile rail and road-based platforms. These land-based missiles include both Agni-II (1500 km) as well as Agni-III (2500 km) missiles. The range and accuracy of further versions for example, Agni V (5000 km) which was tested successfully only recently, will improve with the acquisition of further technological capability and experience..."
  6. "New chief of India's military research complex reveals brave new mandate". 4 July 2013. Retrieved 4 July 2013. 
  7. "Weapons around the world". Retrieved 31 August 2010. 
  8. "India's Nuclear Weapons Program". Retrieved 26 June 2012. 
  9. "India's and Pakistan's Fissile Material and Nuclear Weapons Inventories, end of 1999". Institute for Science and International Security. Retrieved 26 June 2012. 
  10. US wants India to sign NPT Business Standard, 7 May 2009.
  11. 11.0 11.1 "Research Library: Country Profiles: India Biological Chronology". NTI. Archived from the original on 4 June 2011. Retrieved 16 July 2010. 
  12. [pointer]=49
  13. 13.0 13.1 "India to destroy chemical weapons stockpile by 2009". Dominican Today. Retrieved 30 April 2013. 
  14. By Smithson, Amy Gaffney, Frank, Jr.; 700+ words. "India declares its stock of chemical weapons". Retrieved 30 April 2013. 
  15. "Zee News – India destroys its chemical weapons stockpile". 14 May 2009. Retrieved 30 April 2013. 
  16. [1][dead link]
  17. "Research Library: Country Profiles: India Biological Chronology". NTI. Retrieved 16 July 2010. 
  18. B. M. Udgaonkar, India’s nuclear capability, her security concerns and the recent tests, Indian Academy of Sciences, January 1999.
  19. Chengappa, Raj (2000). Weapons of peace : the secret story of India's quest to be a nuclear power. New Delhi: Harper Collins Publishers, India. ISBN 81-7223-330-2. 
  20. et. al (30 March 2001). "The Beginning: 1944–1960" (in English (American)). Nuclear weapon archive center. Retrieved 15 January 2013. 
  21. Bruce Riedel (28 June 2012). "JFK's Overshadowed Crisis". The National Interest. Retrieved 7 July 2012. 
  22. [2][dead link]
  23. "History's greatest conspiracy theories". Retrieved 29 July 2013. 
  24. 24.0 24.1 "Draft Report of National Security Advisory Board on Indian Nuclear Doctrine". Retrieved 30 April 2013. [dead link]
  25. Speech by NSA Shri Shivshankar Menon at NDC on “The Role of Force in Strategic Affairs”: Web-site of Ministry of External Affairs (Govt. of India)
  26. NSA Shivshankar Menon at NDC (Speech) : india Blooms[dead link][dead link]
  27. Bagchi, Indrani. "Even a midget nuke strike will lead to massive retaliation, India warns Pak – The Economic Times". The Economic Times. Retrieved 30 April 2013. 
  28. "Advanced Agni-6 missile with multiple warheads likely by 2017". Retrieved 1 October 2013. 
  29. Subramanian, T.S.. "Agni-VI all set to take shape". Retrieved 1 October 2013. 
  30. Indian Nuclear Forces, 14 July 2012
  31. India plans to impart power punch to Jaguar fighters, October 2012
  32. "CDI Nuclear Issues Area – Nuclear Weapons Database: French Nuclear Delivery Systems". Archived from the original on 28 July 2012. Retrieved 16 July 2010. 
  33. Unnithan, Sandeep (28 January 2008). "The secret undersea weapon". Retrieved 11 November 2012. 
  34. "Indian nuclear submarine", India Today, August 2007 edition
  35. "Russia helped India's nuke programme: CIA". 9 January 2003. Retrieved 2 January 2013. 
  36. "Russia helped Indian nuclear programme, says CIA". 9 January 2009. Retrieved 2 January 2013. 
  37. "Sagarika missile test-fired successfully". The Hindu. Chennai, India. 27 February 2008. Retrieved 31 August 2010. 
  38. "Coming from India's defense unit: ASTRA missile". 31 December 2004. Retrieved 31 August 2010. 
  39. "Agni-III test-fired successfully". 7 May 2008. Retrieved 31 August 2010. 
  40. "Nuclear Data – Table of Indian Nuclear Forces, 2002". NRDC. Retrieved 16 July 2010. 
  41. [3][dead link]
  42. "Dhanush, naval surface-to-surface missile, test fired successfully". 31 March 2007. Retrieved 31 August 2010. 
  43. United Nations General Assembly Session 52 Verbatim 67.- | / | A-52-PV.67 }} {{#strreplace: - | / | A-52-PV.67 }} 9 December 1997. Retrieved 22 August 2007.
  44. United Nations General Assembly Session 52 Resolution- | / | A-RES-52-38 }} {{#strreplace: - | / | A-RES-52-38 }} page 16. {{{date}}}. Retrieved 22 August 2007.
  45. "IAEA approves India nuclear inspection deal — IAEA". Retrieved 2 October 2008. 
  46. "Nuclear Suppliers Group Grants India Historic Waiver — MarketWatch". 6 October 2008. Archived from the original on 20 October 2008.{BA6E4022-DBC8-4B43-B9DE-62608913CB8A}&dist=hppr. Retrieved 2 October 2008. 
  47. 3 hours ago (3 hours ago). "AFP: India energised by nuclear pacts". Google News. Archived from the original on 28 December 2009. Retrieved 2 October 2008. 
  48. "India, France agree on civil nuclear cooperation". Retrieved 16 July 2010. 
  49. "Bush signs India-US nuclear deal into law – Home". 9 October 2008. Retrieved 16 July 2010. 
  50. TNN, 15 September 2009, 02.41am IST (15 September 2009). "India, Mongolia sign civil, nuclear cooperation pact – India". The Times of India. Retrieved 16 July 2010. 
  51. Sanjay Dutta, TNN, 23 January 2009, 01.35am IST (23 January 2009). "Kazakh nuclear, oil deals hang in balance – International Business – Business". The Times of India. Retrieved 16 July 2010. 
  52. UK, Canada eye India's nuclear business (18 January 2009). "UK, Canada eye India's nuclear business". Retrieved 16 July 2010. 
  53. [4][dead link]

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