India is a nuclear weapon state, but since it is not party to the NPT, its nuclear weapons program is not under the same regulations nor does the country have the same obligations as the NPT nuclear weapon states. This, coupled with India’s relationship with the U.S. and volatile history with neighboring country, Pakistan, which also possesses nuclear weapons, makes India an important country to watch. BASIC monitors India’s nuclear weapons program in its Getting to Zero Updates. Read the summaries below, listed in reverse chronological order, for more information.
India continued a series of nuclear-capable missile tests, including the land-based Agni 1 with a range of 700km/435 miles and the K-15, India’s firstsubmarine-fired high-altitude missile with a range of 750km/466 miles. India also announced plans to work with Russia to test experimentalhypersonic cruise missiles within five years. India’s first nuclear-powered submarine, the INS Arihant, eventually to be armed with nuclear weapons, was set for its first sea trials. However, completion of the vesselis reportedly months behind schedule.
According to the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists’ most recent assessment on India’s nuclear arsenal, released in July, India has enough weapons-grade plutonium for about 100-130 nuclear warheads. However, available information pertinent to nuclear-capable delivery vehicles leads to a lower estimate of about 80-100 nuclear warheads in India’s arsenal.
A Congressional Research Service (CRS) Report from the end of June indicates that Pakistan is elevating its nuclear posture, in particular by continuing with the production of plutonium for atomic warheads as well as increasing the deployment of delivery vehicles.
India recently concluded a deal to purchase over 120 nuclear-capable French jet fighters as well as formally place into service a Russian nuclear submarine—on lease for 10-years—for training purposes. Not intended to carry nuclear missiles itself, the sub will be used to acclimate the Indian Navy for future domestically-produced submarines. Such expansion is likely to create tension among regional rivals, Pakistan and China.
India test-launched on April 19 its Agni-5 missile, which is a three-stage, solid-fuel rocket with a range of 3,100 miles/5,000 km, its longest-range nuclear-capable ballistic missile. Indian officials have reassured the international community that the test was not intended to threaten anyone imminently. However, strengthening its nuclear deterrent against China is believed to be India’s primary goal. The two countries have boundary disagreements and Indian leaders have noted Chinese projections of power toward the Indian Ocean.
Pakistan successfully tested its Hatf-VII nuclear-capable cruise missile with a range of about 435 miles/700 km. The test-fire is seen as part of Pakistan’s efforts to bolster its nuclear deterrent against India. The firing is the country’s fifth nuclear-capable missile test since late April.
Pakistan and India renewed their bilateral agreements on Reducing the Risk from Accidents Relating to Nuclear Weapons and also on Pre-Notification of Flight Testing of Ballistic Missiles, for five more years, starting this past February.
In early November, Australia witnessed an intensifying debate over whether to approve uranium exports to India. Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard and South Australian Premier Jay Weatherill pushed their ruling Labor Party to allow Australia to sell uranium to India. So far Australia has refused to join a number of other countries, including the United States, on forging nuclear-related agreements with India because India is not a signatory to the NPT, and some believe that providing uranium to the country will exacerbate a nuclear arms race in South Asia. Indian officials contend that Australia should not hold back uranium exports, especially given that Australia is a member of the Nuclear Suppliers Group, which had lifted the ban on civilian nuclear energy-related supplies for India in 2008.[back to top]
The Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) on June 24 announced stronger guidelines on sharing sensitive enrichment and reprocessing (ENR) technologies, a move which India interpreted as a challenge to the waiver from NSG rules that the country was granted in 2008. Indian Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao consequently suggested that Delhi might consider buying nuclear reactors only from countries who agree to the transfer of ENR technologies. Companies from France, Russia, the United States and Japan are all competing for a share of the $175 billion that India plans to spend on nuclear reactors.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton led the second round of the U.S.-India Strategic Dialogue in New Delhi on July 19. Clinton said the new NSG restrictions will not detract “from the unique impact and importance of the U.S.-India civil nuclear agreement or our commitment to full civil nuclear cooperation.” The agreement, signed in 2008, allows U.S. companies to export nuclear materials and technologies to India in exchange for admitting IAEA inspectors to its civilian atomic installations, but without Delhi joining the NPT.
The United States is, however, continuing to pressure India to ratify the Convention on Supplementary Compensation (CSC) for Nuclear Damage, since it maintains India’s current nuclear liability laws disproportionately burden sellers of nuclear technology with compensation payments in the case of a nuclear accident. Although India maintains its laws are in accordance with international standards, they have dampened American companies’ enthusiasm to construct reactors.
On July 18, India began constructing two heavy water reactors at Rawatbhata in Rajasthan. A day later, it was discovered that a uranium mine in southern India may contain much greater reserves of the material than was once believed. No details have yet been released on the quality of the substance, which in the past has been imported
In Senate hearings on March 16, U.S. Gen. David Petraeus emphasized that although Pakistan’s nuclear weapons are safe and secure, terrorist groups still hope to obtain them. There are concerns over extremists in India as well. The Minister of State for Home Affairs asserted to the Lok Sabha (lower house of the parliament) that India’s nuclear power plants remain at risk from terrorist attack, and the security challenges will only increase as India builds new nuclear power plants.
During a U.S. state visit to India, President Obama and Indian Prime Minister Singh affirmed the “need for a meaningful dialogue among all states possessing nuclear weapons to build trust and confidence for reducing the salience of nuclear weapons in international affairs and security doctrine” in a joint statement. Although India has nuclear weapons, it is not a member of the NPT and is not a recognized nuclear weapon state. It was the first time that a nuclear weapon state representative endorsed talks between the five nuclear powers and states with nuclear weapons which are not members of the treaty.
The statement also welcomed the advancement of the controversial U.S.-India civil nuclear agreement. The issue raised intense discussions between the two parties before President Obama’s visit. India signed the International Convention on Supplementary Compensation for Nuclear Damage in an effort to ease tensions with the United States on the civil nuclear partnership, but the convention would not address all of the concerns companies have with the legislation that India passed in August which assigns legal liabilities on nuclear suppliers as well as operators in the event of an accident.
The Indian Parliament passed the Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage (CLND) bill on August 30, thereby holding suppliers of nuclear reactors and raw materials liable in the event of an accident. The liability bill was seen as a key component for seeing through the completion of the internationally controversial U.S.-India nuclear deal, which was approved in the U.S. Congress in 2008. The bill requires that suppliers, manufacturers, and service providers remain liable for accidents that may occur, and requires certain levels of compensation owed to victims. The bill’s requirements were seen as possibly hampering suppliers and the United States suggested that India should ensure its CLND bill be consistent with those in other countries. The issue might be on the agenda when President Obama pays his first official visit to the country in early November.
There is a controversial and expanding list of countries that have reached nuclear supply deals with India since 2008 when the Nuclear Suppliers Group ended a 34-year ban on exporting nuclear technology to India. Canada was the latest on June 28, and Japan recently commenced discussions. The talks with Tokyo are considered to be extra sensitive because of Japan’s history and stance toward nuclear weapons, and India’s possession of a nuclear arsenal outside of the NPT – a status which Japan has repeatedly criticized. The business newspaper Nikkei said that Japan has been pressured by the United States and France to agree to a deal because it would allow General Electric and Areva to use nuclear suppliers that are based in Japan for their projects in India, where both companies have already won contracts to build nuclear reactors.