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Arms Control and Proliferation Profile: India
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Updated: July 2013

This profile summarizes the major arms control agreements, regimes, initiatives, and practices that India subscribes to and those that it does not. It also describes the major weapons programs, policies, and holdings of India, as well as its proliferation record. This profile is one of a series focused on the arms control record and status of key states, all of which are available on the Arms Control Association’s Website at http://www.armscontrol.org.

Major Multilateral Arms Control Agreements and Treaties




Biological Weapons Convention



Chemical Weapons Convention



Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty

-Only supports the treaty in the context of general nuclear disarmament.[1]

- - -

- - -

Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT)

-Has developed nuclear weapons outside the treaty.

- - -

- - -

Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons

-Party to all protocols.



Outer Space Treaty



Ottawa Mine Ban Convention

-Employs landmines for border defense.

- - -

- - -

Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material (CPPNM)

- - -


CPPNM 2005 Amendment

- - -


International Convention for the Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism



*India stated that it will not be bound by the dispute settlement procedures in Paragraph 2, Article 17

*India stated that it will not be bound by the dispute settlement procedures in Paragraph 1, Article 23

Export Control Regimes, Nonproliferation Initiatives, and Safeguards

Australia Group: Not a member.

Missile Technology Control Regime: Not a member, but India pledged in July 2005 to adhere to the regime’s guidelines.

Nuclear Suppliers Group: Not a member, but India vowed to “harmonize” its export controls with those advocated by the voluntary 45-member group. India is prohibited from importing key nuclear materials and technologies from group members because New Delhi does not subject its entire nuclear enterprise to safeguards administered by the International Atomic Energy Agency.

Wassenaar Arrangement: Not a member.

International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Additional Protocol: IAEA approved additional protocol on March 3, 2009.

Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism: Not a participant.

Hague Code of Conduct against Ballistic Missile Proliferation: Not a participant.

Proliferation Security Initiative: Not a participant. A senior U.S. official indicated to Arms Control Today that the initiative does not target Indian transfers because it is a U.S. ally.[2]

UN Security Council Resolutions 1540 and 1673: India has filed reports on its activities to fulfill the resolutions and offered to host IAEA courses on physical security of nuclear facilities.

Major Weapons Programs, Policies, and Practices

Biological Weapons:

The Indian biotechnology private sector is highly sophisticated and the government conducts defensive biological weapons research. No evidence points to an offensive weapons program.

Chemical Weapons:

India has destroyed over half of its declared 1,055 metric tons of chemical weapon stockpiles. India’s destruction deadline is April 2009. Indian industry exports precursor and dual-use chemicals and the armed forces operate an active chemical weapons defense program.

Conventional Weapons Trade:

India is a leading buyer of conventional arms. Between 1999 and 2006, India totaled $22.4 billion in arms sales agreements, according to a 2007 report by the U.S. Congressional Research Service. That total made India first among all developing arms buyers during that period.[3] India became the leading global arms importer in the period from 2007 to 2011, accounting for ten percent of total arms imports. This trend is expected to continue, with an announced increase of 17 percent in defense spending for the fiscal year 2012-2013.[4]

The Nuclear Arsenal, an Overview:

India is estimated to have an arsenal of 80 to 100 warheads with plutonium cores.[5] India is working to expand its fleet of ground-launched ballistic missiles capable of delivering nuclear weapons and is developing submarine launched ballistic missile (SLBM) capability.

Delivery Systems


  • Ballistic Missiles: India has an active and advanced ballistic missile sector, which has produced a nuclear-capable short-range ballistic missile - the Prithvi 1 - that is in service. Nuclear-capable medium-range and intermediate-range ballistic missiles are also under development and have been flight-tested, with mixed results including both successful tests and failures. There have been eight successful tests of the 700 kilometer range Agni-1 missile, and several successful tests of a 2,000 kilometer range Agni-2. While the Agni-1 is fully operational and deployed, the status of the Agni-2 is less certain. The Agni-2 was most recently tested in July 2012. The Agni-3 is a two stage, solid fuelled missile with a range of 3,000 kilometers, India’s Defense Research and Development organization (DRDO) was included into military service in 2012 and is currently in production. The longest range missile under development is India's Agni-5 with a reported range of 5,000 kilometers, making it capable of reaching Shanghai or Beijing, but short of the 5,500 kilometer threshold for an ICBM. The Agni-5 was successfully tested for the first time on April 19, 2012. According to the DRDO, the Agni-5 has a potential maximum range of 5,500-5,800 kilometers, although this has not been confirmed in tests.[6] Consistent reports exist that India also intends to convert a space launch vehicle into an intercontinental-range ballistic missile, the Surya.[7]

  • Submarine Launched Ballistic Missiles: India has tested a submarine-launched ballistic missile, the K-15, four times. The first test took place in February 2008 from a submerged pontoon, not a submarine. Estimates of the range of the K-15 are between 290 and 700 kilometers. In July, 2012, India announced that the K-15 was ready for production, although it will likely undergo further testing before it is deployed. Upon deployment of the nuclear capable K-15, India will have completed the triad. In addition, India has conducted seven tests of a ship-launched ballistic missile based on the Prithvi design - the Dhanush - with a range of about 350 kilometers.

  • Cruise Missiles: India has worked with Russia to produce the BrahMos supersonic anti-ship and land-attack cruise missile. The missile, which can be launched from aircraft, ships, or a mobile ground vehicle, has an estimated range of roughly 300 kilometers—the threshold range of missiles that Missile Technology Control Regime members are supposed to exercise restraint in exporting. India announced plans to test a second cruise missile called the Nirbhay in 2012. According to the DRDO, the Nirbhay will have a range of 1,000 kilometers and will be capable of carrying multiple warheads.


  • Since 1984 India has been developing a nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarine, the Arihant, as a third platform for nuclear warhead delivery. This submarine is expected to complete sea trials and begin patrols in 2013, and will likely carry 12 K-15 SLBM's.

Strategic Bombers

  • India’s only known nuclear capable aircraft is the Mirage 2000H.  This plane has a range of 1850 km and is capable of carrying up to 6300 kg of explosive.  It can only deliver gravity-based nuclear bombs.  It is also believed that the Jaguar IS Shamsher and the Sukhoi Su-30MKI combat aircrafts have been modified to deliver nuclear payloads. [8] In 2012 India selected the Rafale fighter jet to replace its aging fleet of Mirage 2000 planes.  The first Rafale planes are expected to be delivered in late 2013.

Nuclear Weapons

Indian officials say the size of their nuclear stockpile is based on maintaining a “credible minimum deterrent.” Although India stated in January 2003 that it would not use nuclear weapons against states that do not possess such arms and declared that nuclear weapons would only be used to retaliate against a nuclear attack, the government reserved the right to use nuclear weapons in response to biological or chemical weapons attacks.

India’s nuclear warheads are believed to be stored in a disassembled state, with the fissile core kept separate from the warhead package.  This practice greatly increases the the time required to deploy the weapons.

India has conducted three nuclear weapon tests, although it claimed its first test was a “peaceful” nuclear explosion. In addition, one test involved two simultaneous explosions and another involved three synchronized blasts. The first test occurred May 18, 1974, and the last took place May 13, 1998.

Fissile Material

India produces highly enriched uranium (HEU), but not to weapons grade levels. Its HEU production is intended to fuel the reactor cores for its nuclear submarine program and it is believed to be enriched to between 30 and 45 percent. India's HEU stockpile is estimated at approximately 2 tons.

India continues to produce fissile material for weapons purposes and refused to cease such production as part of a proposed U.S.-Indian civilian nuclear cooperation deal. New Delhi has approximately 520 kilograms of plutonium available for nuclear weapons - enough for 100 to 130 warheads - and up to another 11.5 metric tons of reactor grade plutonium in spent fuel, which could be reprocessed for weapons use.[9] Some analysts estimate that India could increase its production of fissile material for weapons if it succeeds in securing foreign nuclear fuel shipments because such a move would free up more Indian domestic resources currently divided between the military and civilian sector for building bombs.[10] India agreed in 2006 to allow 14 of its 22 nuclear reactors to be monitored by the IAEA, and has since updated its plan to include an additional four for safeguards.

Proliferation Record

India’s first nuclear test was of a device derived partially from Canadian and U.S. exports designated for peaceful purposes. That test spurred the United States and several other countries to create the Nuclear Suppliers Group to more severely restrict global nuclear trade.

The George W. Bush administration has sanctioned several Indian entities for transferring technologies and know-how to Iraq and Iran that could contribute to chemical or biological weapons programs. Independent analysts also allege that India’s procurement system for its own nuclear programs could leak or reveal nuclear know-how to other states or non-state actors.[11]

Other Arms Control and Nonproliferation Activities

India has concluded bilateral confidence-building measures with Pakistan. After their tit-for-tat nuclear tests in 1998, the two rivals volunteered to abstain from nuclear testing. They also have established a hotline to reduce the risk of accidental nuclear war and agreed to exchange advance notifications of ballistic missile flight tests.

At the 65-member Conference on Disarmament, India favors negotiation of a fissile material cutoff treaty that is “effectively verifiable,” which is a condition opposed by the United States. At that Geneva forum and elsewhere, India has consistently called for general nuclear disarmament by all states.

In March 2006, India pledged to subject more of its nuclear facilities to IAEA safeguards as part of a U.S.-Indian initiative to exempt India from current U.S. and multilateral nuclear trade restrictions. In 2008 India negotiated a limited agreement with the IAEA, which resulted in the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) removing the ban on nuclear trade with India. Since then India has negotiated nuclear cooperation agreements with countries including the U.S., U.K., Russia, France, Namibia, South Korea, Mongolia, Canada, Argentina, and Kazakhstan.

The Obama administration in a November 2010 statement expressed its support for India's membership in four export control groups, inclduing the NSG, the Missile Technology Control Regime, the Australian Group, and the Wassanaar Agreement. Membership in the NSG requires membership and compliance with the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty - which India is still not party to - a factor that has impeded India's admittance to the group. Discussions in June 2012 within the NSG about India's potential membership have remained inconclusive.

-Updated by Victor Silva


1. Embassy of India, “Nuclear Non-Proliferation, http://www.indianembassy.org/policy/CTBT/embassy_non_proliferation.htm.

2. Boese, Wade, “The Proliferation Security Initiative: An Interview with John Bolton,” Arms Control Today, December 2003, p. 37.

3. Natural Resources Defense Council, “India’s Nuclear Forces, 2007,” Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, July/August 2007, p. 74.

4. Speier, Richard, “U.S. Space Aid to India: On a “Glide Path” to ICBM Trouble?” Arms Control Today, March 2006, p. 13.

5. Grimmett, Richard F., Conventional Arms Transfers to Developing Nations, 1999-2006, Congressional Research Service, September 26, 2007, 92 pp.

6. BBC News "India behind 24% jump in world arms trade," 19 March 2012, http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-india-17433630.

7. Hans Kristensen and Robert Norris, Indian nuclear forces, 2012, Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, July 2012.

8. SIPRI Yearbook 2013, (Oxford: Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, 2012),  p 313

9. Hans Kristensen and Robert Norris, Indian nuclear forces, 2012, Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, July 2012.

10. Mian, Zia, A. H. Nayyar, R. Rajaraman, and M. V. Ramana, Fissile Materials in South Asia: The Implications of the U.S.-Indian Nuclear Deal, International Panel on Fissile Materials, September 2006, 36 pp.

11. Albright, David, and Basu, Susan, Neither a Determined Proliferator Nor a Responsible Nuclear State: India’s Record Needs Scrutiny, Institute for Science and International Security, April 5, 2006, 4 pp.

Posted: July 12, 2013