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International Relations

Increasing Nuclear Stockpiles

  • 16 Jun 2020
  • 4 min read

Why in News

According to a recent report published in the SIPRI Yearbook 2020, India, Pakistan and China have increased their nuclear stockpile in the past year and all nations already having them, are modernising their nuclear arsenals.

  • The SIPRI Yearbook is released by the Swedish think tank Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) which researches international armament and conflict.
  • SIPRI also releases the annual report ‘Trends in World Military Expenditure’ and in 2019, India was among the top three largest military spenders.

Key Points

  • Data Analysis:
    • The nine nations that have nuclear weapons include the USA, Russia, UK, France, China, India, Pakistan, Israel and North Korea.
      • The report has not counted North Korean numbers because of the ‘highly uncertain’ number of nuclear heads.
    • The total number of nuclear warheads in these nuclear-armed countries has gone down from 13,865 in 2019 to 13,400 in 2020.
      • The decline in the overall numbers was largely due to the dismantlement of old nuclear weapons by Russia and the USA (New START) which together account for more than 90% of the nuclear warheads in the world.
      • Russia and the USA have already announced extensive plans to replace and modernise their nuclear warheads and delivery systems.
    • India, Pakistan and China have increased their nuclear stockpile and are significantly modernising their arsenals.
      • Both China and Pakistan have a larger stockpile of nuclear weapons compared to India.
      • India and Pakistan are slowly increasing the size and diversity of their nuclear forces.
      • China is developing a so-called nuclear triad for the first time, made up of new land and sea-based missiles and nuclear-capable aircraft.
  • Less Transparency:
    • The report noted that the availability of reliable information on the status of the nuclear arsenals and capabilities of the nuclear-armed states varies considerably because governments are hesitant to fully disclose the information on their arsenals.
      • The governments of India and Pakistan told about some of their missile tests but provided little information about the status or size of their arsenals.
      • In 2019, the USA ended the practice of publicly disclosing the size of its stockpile.
  • New START:
    • The USA and Russia have reduced their nuclear arsenals under the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) 2010 but it will lapse in February 2021 unless both parties agree to prolong it.
    • However, discussions on its extension have made no progress so far because of the USA’s insistence that China must join any future nuclear arms reduction talks, which China has categorically ruled out.
    • The deadlock over the New START and the collapse of the Soviet-USA Treaty on the Elimination of Intermediate-Range and Shorter-Range Missiles (INF Treaty 1987) in 2019 suggest that bilateral nuclear arms control agreements might be coming to an end.
    • Both countries have given new or expanded roles to nuclear weapons in their military plans and doctrines, which marks a significant reversal of the post-Cold War trend towards the gradual marginalisation of nuclear weapons.

Way Forward

In the times of ever-increasing geo-political tensions, adequate measures are required to monitor nuclear arsenals and to prevent the proliferation of nuclear weapons and materials.

Source: TH

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