New Delhi: India and China have both increased their nuclear weapons stockpile over the last year but New Delhi’s overall numbers are less than half of Beijing’s and also slightly lower than what Pakistan possesses.
In its Yearbook 2020, the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), a Swedish think tank, has pegged the number of nuclear warheads in the Chinese arsenal at 320, while Pakistan and India are estimated to have 160 and 150 weapons, respectively.
In its 2019 report, SIPRI had calculated China’s nuclear arsenal at 290 and India’s at 130-140. Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal was calculated at 150-160, a number which remains constant in the latest assessment too.
Decrease in global nuclear weapons numbers
The report states that there has been a decrease in the overall number of nuclear weapons in the world in 2019. This was largely due to Russia and the US — which together still possess over 90 per cent of global nuclear weapons — dismantling retired nuclear weapons.
The nine nuclear-armed states — the United States, Russia, the United Kingdom, France, China, India, Pakistan, Israel and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North Korea) — together possessed an estimated 13,400 nuclear weapons at the start of 2020, the think-tank said.
This marked a decrease from the 13,865 nuclear weapons that SIPRI estimated these states possessed at the beginning of 2019.
China displays nuclear weapons more frequently
On the issue of China, SIPRI said Beijing now publicly displays its nuclear forces more frequently than in the past but releases little information about force numbers or future development plans.
It added that China is in the middle of a significant modernisation and expansion of its nuclear arsenal, and that Beijing is developing the “nuclear triad for the first time”, made up of new land and sea-based missiles and nuclear-capable aircraft.
India and Pakistan are slowly increasing the size and diversity of their nuclear forces, SIPRI said.
Different countries relying on different raw material
The raw material for nuclear weapons is fissile material, either highly enriched uranium (HEU) or separated plutonium.
According to SIPRI, China, France, Russia, the UK and the US have produced both HEU and plutonium for use in their nuclear weapons while India and Israel have produced mainly plutonium.
Pakistan has produced mainly HEU but is increasing its ability to produce plutonium. North Korea has produced plutonium for use in nuclear weapons but is believed to be producing HEU for nuclear weapons as well.
In April this year, SIPRI had identified India as the third largest military spender in the world, just behind the US and China.
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