New Delhi, Rajat Pandit(TNN): Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal continues to surge ahead with 100-120 warheads as compared to India’s 90-110. China has more than double that number with 250 warheads. The US and Russia, of course, are in a different league altogether with 7,000-8,000 warheads each, together possessing 93% of all nuclear weapons.
This is the latest assessment of the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute which holds that all the nine nuclear-armed countries continue to “modernize” their nuclear arsenals and delivery systems like long-range missiles.
With the US and Russia slowly reducing their huge inventories under the new strategic arms reduction treaty of 2011, the overall number of nuclear weapons continues to decline. But there are still 16,300 nuclear weapons around the globe, of which around 4,000 are “operational”, said SIPRI.
“China, India and Pakistan are the only nuclear weapon states that are expanding their nuclear arsenals, while Israel appears to be waiting to see how the situation in Iran develops,” it added.
But rather than its actual stockpile of warheads as compared to Pakistan and China, the Indian defence establishment remains more worried about its delivery systems. The Indian armed forces still do not have SLBMs (submarine-launched ballistic missiles) and ICBMs (inter-continental ballistic missiles) in their arsenal, both of which are needed for credible deterrence against its two neighbours.
“We have a declared no-first use (NFU) nuclear policy, which requires effective and survivable second-strike capabilities for massive retaliation in case of a first strike. This can only come through nuclear-powered submarines armed with SLBMs, hidden deep underwater for extended periods of time,” said an official.
Despite all its covert help from China and North Korea in the nuclear and missile arenas, Pakistan also does not have ICBMs and SLBMs as of now.
India may have conducted two successful tests of its first ICBM, the over 5,000-km Agni-V, over the last couple of years but it will take at least three years for the missile to become fully-operational. Similarly, the 750-km K-15 SLBM is yet to be tested from India’s first indigenous nuclear-powered submarine INS Arihant, which is slated to head for extensive “sea trials” only later this year.
A longer range SLBM, the over 2,000-km K-4, was also tested for the first-time from a submersible pontoon in March, as was reported by TOI. Apart from the shorter-range Prithvi missiles, India currently has the Agni-I (700-km), Agni-II (2,000-km) and Agni-III (3,000-km) missiles under its Strategic Forces Command.
“India and Pakistan continue to develop new systems capable of delivering nuclear weapons and are expanding their capacities to produce fissile material for military purposes,” said the SIPRI report.
“All the five legally recognised nuclear weapon states, China, France, Russia, the UK and the US, are either deploying new nuclear weapon delivery systems or have announced programmes to do so,” it added. The other four, India, Pakistan, Israel and North Korea, are not signatories to the nuclear non-proliferation treaty. [input source: TOI]