India, China increased nuclear weapons since last year: SIPRI


NEW DELHI: India and China have increased their nuclear arsenal over the last year, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI). The Swedish think-tank that researches on conflict, armaments and arms control also pointed out on Monday that China is significantly modernising its nuclear arsenal.

China and Pakistan have more nuclear warheads as compared to India, according to the SIPRI Yearbook 2020. India has 150 nuclear warheads, while China and Pakistan have 320 and 160. The figures are until January. Last year, India had 130-140 warheads, while China had 290 and Pakistan 150-160.

“China is in the middle of a significant modernization of its nuclear arsenal. It is developing a so-called nuclear triad for the first time, made up of new land and sea-based missiles and nuclear-capable aircraft,” the think-tank said in a statement.

China’s pace of growth of its nuclear weapons has increased in recent years with the fielding of new weapon systems, according to the report. Around 240 warheads are assigned to China’s operational land and sea based ballistic missiles and nuclear configured aircraft. The rest are assigned to non-operational forces, such as new systems in development.

China has adopted a nuclear strategy of self-defence, which is to deter other countries from using or threatening to use nuclear weapons against it. Therefore, China has prioritised building an operational triad of land, sea and air based nuclear forces to strengthen its deterrence and counter-strike capabilities.

“China now publicly displays its nuclear forces more frequently than in the past but releases little information about force numbers or future development plans,” it said.

The SIPRI also said that India and Pakistan make statements about some of their missile tests, but provide little information about the status or size of their arsenals. They too are slowly increasing the size and diversity of their nuclear forces.

“India is expanding the size of its nuclear weapon stockpile as well as its infrastructure for producing nuclear warheads,” the report said.

Aircraft are the most mature component of India’s nuclear strike capabilities. SIPRI estimates that there are about 48 nuclear bombs assigned to aircraft. To create a second strike capability, India is also developing the naval component of its nuclear triad. About 12 nuclear warheads have been delivered for potential deployment by the nuclear submarine, INS Arihant.

The details have come to light at a time when Indian and Chinese troops are engaged in a stand-off in Eastern Ladakh since May.

Pakistan continues to prioritise the development of its nuclear weapons as part of its “full-spectrum deterrence posture” against India. Pakistan is seeking to create a nuclear triad by developing a sea-based nuclear force.

The nine nuclear-armed states—the US, Russia, the United Kingdom, France, China, India, Pakistan, Israel and North Korea—together possessed an estimated 13,400 nuclear weapons at the start of 2020. This marked a decrease from the 13,865 nuclear weapons that SIPRI estimated these states possessed at the beginning of 2019. Around 3,720 of the nuclear weapons are currently deployed with operational forces and nearly 1,800 of these are kept in a state of high operational alert.

The decrease in the overall number of nuclear weapons in the world last year was largely due to the dismantlement of retired nuclear weapons by Russia and the US. Together, they still possess over 90 per cent of global nuclear weapons.

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