Nuclear Diplomacy and Disarmament

Global Nuclear Arsenal Expansion Race


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Read the attached story

Mains level: Global nuclear arms race

nuclear arms stockpile

Central Idea

  • China’s nuclear arsenal: China increased its nuclear arsenal from 350 warheads in January 2022 to 410 warheads in January 2023, according to SIPRI.
  • Potential ICBM parity: SIPRI suggests that depending on how China structures its forces, it could have a comparable number of intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) to the U.S. or Russia by the end of the decade.
  • Concerns over stated aim: SIPRI’s Weapons of Mass Destruction Programme questions the alignment between China’s expanding nuclear arsenal and its declared goal of maintaining minimum nuclear forces for national security.

India and Pakistan’s Nuclear Arsenal Growth

  • India’s nuclear arsenal: SIPRI estimates indicate that India’s nuclear arsenal grew from 160 warheads in 2022 to 164 warheads in 2023.
  • Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal: SIPRI estimates that Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal increased from 165 warheads in 2022 to 170 warheads in 2023.
  • Emphasis on longer-range weapons: India seems to be placing growing importance on longer-range weapons capable of reaching targets across China, while Pakistan remains the primary focus of India’s nuclear deterrent.

Global Nuclear Weapons Inventory

  • Total global inventory: As of January 2023, the global inventory of warheads reached 12,512.
  • Warheads in military stockpiles: Approximately 9,576 warheads were held in military stockpiles for potential use, representing an increase of 86 warheads compared to January 2022.
  • Dominance of Russia and the U.S.: Russia and the U.S. collectively possess nearly 90% of all nuclear weapons.
  • Stability in nuclear arsenals: The size of Russia’s and the U.S.’ nuclear arsenals remained relatively stable in 2022, although transparency regarding nuclear forces declined due to the Ukraine conflict, as noted by SIPRI.

Reasons for increased stockpile

  • Shifting power dynamics: China’s significant expansion of its nuclear arsenal has implications for global power dynamics, potentially challenging the traditional dominance of the U.S. and Russia in the nuclear arena.
  • Regional security concerns: China’s increased nuclear capabilities raise concerns among neighboring countries, particularly those involved in territorial disputes or security rivalries in the Asia-Pacific region.
  • Global arms race: China’s nuclear arsenal growth may fuel an arms race in the region, leading to increased tensions and instability.

Nuclear Dynamics in South Asia

  • Strategic rivalry between India and Pakistan: The nuclear arsenals of India and Pakistan continue to expand, reflecting the ongoing strategic competition and deterrence dynamics between the two countries.
  • Escalation risks: The increase in nuclear capabilities in South Asia raises the potential for miscalculation and escalation, heightening the risk of a nuclear conflict in the region.
  • Implications for regional stability: The growth of nuclear arsenals in India and Pakistan has wider implications for regional stability and the effectiveness of non-proliferation efforts.

Challenges to the Global Disarmament ideals

  • Declining transparency: The decline in transparency regarding nuclear forces in Russia and the U.S., coupled with the overall increase in global warhead stockpiles, poses challenges to nuclear arms control and disarmament efforts.
  • Erosion of trust: The lack of transparency and increased stockpiles undermine trust between nuclear-armed states, making it more difficult to achieve meaningful progress in disarmament negotiations.
  • Need for renewed dialogue: The growing nuclear arsenals underscore the importance of revitalizing international dialogue on disarmament and strengthening existing arms control agreements.

Legacy issues

  • Notion of Nuclear ‘Haves’ and ‘Have-Nots’: The proponents of disarmaments are themselves nuclear armed countries thus creating a nuclear monopoly.
  • Concept of Peaceful Nuclear Explosion (PNE): conducted for non-military purposes such as mining.

India’s commitment for de-nuclearization

  • Universal commitment and non-discriminatory framework: India advocates for nuclear disarmament based on principles of equality, non-discrimination, and global security.
  • Working paper on Nuclear Disarmament: India submitted a working paper on Nuclear Disarmament to the UN General Assembly in 2006, presenting its perspectives and proposals for achieving global disarmament.
  • Participation in Nuclear Security Initiatives: India actively engages in the Nuclear Security Summit process and supports efforts to enhance global nuclear security through participation in international conferences organized by the IAEA.
  • Membership in the Nuclear Security Contact Group: India is a member of the Nuclear Security Contact Group, contributing to discussions and initiatives aimed at strengthening international cooperation on nuclear security.
  • Support for Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty (FMCT): India expresses readiness to support negotiations on a Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty, considering it an important step towards disarmament by banning the production of fissile material for nuclear weapons.
  • Concerns regarding the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT): India has not joined the CTBT due to several concerns, but it remains open to addressing these concerns and exploring possibilities for future accession to the treaty.
  • Leadership in Preventing Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) Proliferation: India actively leads efforts to prevent terrorists from acquiring WMDs, piloting an annual UNGA Resolution on “Measures to Prevent Terrorists from Acquiring Weapons of Mass Destruction” since 2002, which receives consensus adoption.

Way forward

  • Strengthening non-proliferation efforts: The expansion of nuclear arsenals highlights the need for robust non-proliferation mechanisms and adherence to international agreements such as the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT).
  • Managing nuclear risks: As the number of nuclear-armed states increases, effective risk management and confidence-building measures become crucial to prevent accidental or intentional use of nuclear weapons.
  • Balancing deterrence and disarmament: The international community faces the challenge of striking a balance between maintaining credible deterrence and pursuing disarmament goals to ensure global security.


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