Nuclear Disarmament and India’s Stance – Explained, pointwise

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The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) has released its yearbook. The Report has highlighted some worrying trends in international security in the past year. The expected rise of the global nuclear arsenal was the chief cause of concern among SIPRI experts. The comprehensive report claims that while absolute numbers of nuclear arsenal have reduced, they are expected to grow over the next decade. Considering this scenario, it is imperative countries come forward and take prudent steps in order move towards Nuclear Disarmament. 

About Nuclear Weapons

A nuclear weapon is a device designed to release energy in an explosive manner as a result of nuclear fission, nuclear fusion, or a combination of the two processes. 

Fission weapons are commonly referred to as atomic bombs. Fusion weapons are also referred to as thermonuclear bombs or, more commonly, hydrogen bombs. Nuclear weapons produce enormous explosive energy. For example, the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima, Japan, in 1945, contained only about 64 kg (140 pounds) of highly enriched uranium. However, it released energy equaling about 15 kilotons (1000 tons) of chemical explosive. 

What are the key findings of the SIPRI Report?

Russia has the highest number of nuclear weapons with 5977 warheads, followed by the US. The US possesses 5428 nuclear weapons. However, the US has the highest number of deployed warheads (1744) followed by Russia (1588).

The US and Russia are followed by China (350), France (290), the UK (225), Pakistan (165), India (160), Israel (90) and North Korea (20). Thus, the rest of the nuclear powers are way behind the US and Russia in terms of nuclear weapon stockpiles.

Nuclear Weapons Stockpile by Countries and Nuclear Disarmament UPSC

Source: AFP

The marginal downsizing observed in the nuclear arsenal has come mostly from the U.S. and Russia dismantling retired warheads. But the Russian invasion of Ukraine has raised some serious concerns because of the continuous rhetoric of not shying away from the use of nuclear weapons.

Further, China’s recent activities surrounding construction of 300 new nuclear missile silos have also been turning heads. In the subcontinent, India and Pakistan seem to be making gains over their nuclear arsenal (in absolute numbers).

Concerns: The yearbook mentions low level border clashes between India and Pakistan, the civil war in Afghanistan, and the armed conflict in Myanmar as some of the worrying indicators of an unstable system. 

It also highlighted three cause of concern trends: Chinese-American rivalry, involvement of state and non-state actors in multiple conflicts, and the challenge that climatic and weather hazards pose.

Why do countries value Nuclear Weapons?

Symbol of modernization: Adding nuclear weapons to the arsenal shows that the military is getting prepared for future emergencies and attaining modern capabilities. Countries are focusing on development of newer and more efficient nuclear submarines, aircraft carriers, fighter jets, manned and unmanned aerial vehicles etc.

Deterrence Effect: Nuclear weapons create a deterrence effect even on strong military powers. For instance, many experts are saying that Russia wouldn’t have invaded Ukraine if the latter hadn’t given up nuclear weapons in early 1990s.

Regional Superiority: Any country which desires to establish a steady control over its region wishes to obtain/retain control of nuclear weapons. For instance, the U.S exercises substantial control over the American continent due to its huge arsenal of nuclear weapons.

Permanent Membership of UNSC: Permanent members enjoy veto over the decisions of the UN and in a way controls the world affairs. All of them possess a huge arsenal of nuclear weapons which was a crucial factor kept in mind while offering them a permanent seat in UNSC. 

What is the need for Nuclear Disarmament?

Huge Magnitude of Destruction: The Nuclear Explosion at Hiroshima released energy equaling about 15 kilotons of chemical explosive. The blast immediately produced a strong shock wave, enormous amounts of heat, and lethal ionizing radiationThe enormous toll in destruction, death, injury, and sickness produced by the explosions at Hiroshima and Nagasaki was on a scale never before produced by any single weapon.

Against Rules of War: Nuclear Weapons can’t strictly obey the rule of differentiating between combatants and civilians. Even if it is used over the military, then also radiation can impact nearby civilian populations.

Sovereign Equality: The destruction of nuclear weapons is imperative to truly realize the principle of sovereign equality of nations. Otherwise the world would remain divided between nuclear haves and have nots.

Fake Triggers: As per recent reports, the U.S and Russia have a sufficient nuclear arsenal to completely destroy the earth. In such a scenario, any fake trigger using misinformation or fake news can destroy the very existence of human beings from earth.

Non state Actors: The growing recruitment of educated youth in terrorist organizations raises a fear that they may attain nuclear prowess in future. This situation can be disastrous and bring a state of anarchy as terrorist have no regard to international law. 

What steps have been taken to prevent Nuclear Proliferation?

Non-proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT), 1968: It was put forward by the USA, UK and USSR. It was signed in 1968 and came into force in 1970. The treaty has 3 pillars: (a) Non-proliferation: Nuclear Weapon States (NWS) pledge not to transfer nuclear weapons and technology and Non-nuclear Weapon States pledge not to acquire nuclear weapons; (b) Disarmament: All parties to pursue good-faith negotiations on effective measures to control nuclear arms race, and to general and complete disarmament; (c) Peaceful Use of Nuclear Energy: The Treaty recognizes the right of all Parties to develop nuclear energy for peaceful purposes.

India considers the treaty discriminatory as it creates a club of ‘nuclear haves‘ and a larger group of ‘nuclear have-nots‘ by restricting the legal possession of nuclear weapons to those states that tested them before 1967. India hasn’t signed the treaty. Pakistan, Israel and South Sudan are other non-signatory countries.

Read More: 50 years of Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT)

Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, 2017: It prohibits and makes it illegal to possess, use, produce, transfer, acquire, stockpile or deploy nuclear weapons. States are also prohibited from using or threatening to use nuclear weapons and other nuclear explosive devices. It came into force in 2021.

Export Control Groupings: Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) and the Missile Technology Control Regimes (MTCR) are some of the nuclear export control groupings. These ensure that nuclear fuel export doesn’t result in nuclear weapons development.

Conference on Disarmament (CD): It is a multilateral disarmament forum established by the international community to negotiate arms control and disarmament agreements based at Geneva. The Conference was first established in 1979 as the Committee on Disarmament. It was renamed the Conference on Disarmament in 1984. The Conference succeeded three other disarmament-related bodies: (a) Ten-Nation Committee on Disarmament (1960); (b) Eighteen-Nation Committee on Disarmament (1962–68); (c) Conference of the Committee on Disarmament (1969–78).

Read More: Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons and Its Prevention
What is India’s Nuclear Doctrine?

(a) Building and maintaining a credible minimum deterrence; (b) A ‘No First Use’ policy i.e. nuclear weapons to be used only in case of any nuclear attack on Indian territory or on Indian forces anywhere; (c) Non use of nuclear weapons against non-nuclear weapon states; (d) Nuclear retaliatory attacks to be authorised only by civilian political leadership through the Nuclear Command Authority; (e) Nuclear retaliation to a first strike will be massive and designed to inflict unacceptable damage; (f) India may retaliate with nuclear weapons to retaliate against attack  with biological or chemical weapons; (g) Strict controls on export of nuclear and missile related materials and technologies; (h) A commitment to the goal of a nuclear weapon free world. 

What is India’s Stance on Nuclear Disarmament?

India is fully committed to complete Nuclear Disarmament. India supports complete disarmament within a specified timeframe which distinguishes its stance from Nuclear Weapon States (NWS) which have an ambiguous stand regarding timeline for disarmament.

India also insists that disarmament must be ‘non-discriminatory’ and pursued ‘on the basis of equality’ i.e., there must be no discriminatory provisions in favor of NWS as is the case with the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). The NPT call for ultimate elimination of nuclear weapons but hasn’t put on timeframe for the same. India calls for complete disarmament despite being a non-signatory of the NPT.

What lies ahead?

The recent geopolitical events transpiring around the world in practically all regions have made the global security climate more unstable. It is further aided by actions of authoritarian leaders of not just non-democratic systems but also of strongmen leaders of democratic systems. 

 The two largest nuclear weapons holding states need to take on a more engaging role in the international arena. SIPRI’s yearbook should force the Governments to look critically at how the global disarmament project seems to be going.

Apart from this, clear and constant communication between Nuclear weapon states is desired in order to avoid the usage of a nuclear weapon based on fake news or misinformation. 


The nations must come forward and prepare a road map for a gradual phase down of nuclear weapons. It is sine qua non for long term well being of humankind keeping in mind the saying of Albert Einstein – “ I do not know with what weapons World War III will be fought, but World War IV will be fought with sticks and stones”.

Source: The Hindu, NTI

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