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India’s nuclear policy aimed at China, has lesser warheads than Pakistan: Report

Pakistan's Shaheen-3, its longest range missile, has a limited range of 2,750, though even that is good enough to hit important targets in India.

By: Express Web Desk | New Delhi |
Updated: August 2, 2016 11:15:36 am
Deep penetration strike aircraft, Jaguar of the Indian Air Force India, do a flypast during the Republic Day parade on Wednesday. Deep penetration strike aircraft, Jaguar of the Indian Air Force, participate in a flypast during the Republic Day parade. Archives/Express Photo

So how many nuclear warheads does India have and how does it stack up against its rivals in the Asian arms race? The Threat Assessment Brief for Asia put out by the Arms Control Association, has some interesting insights, most interesting of which is that Pakistan has more nuclear warheads than India.

So while India has 118 warheads, Pakistan has 130. And China, the giant across the Himalayas has 180 — 263 if we include the DF-26 waiting dismantlement.

The report, written by Greg Thielmann and David Logan of the Princeton University, speaks about an interesting arms race vortex that is gripping the world. “While Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal is designed to counter India’s conventional and nuclear forces, New Delhi measures its own nuclear weapons program against that of China. Beijing, in turn, judges the adequacy of its nuclear arsenal against the threat it perceives from the United States’ strategic offensive and defensive capabilities. And in its efforts to mitigate the ballistic missile threat from North Korea, the US and its allies in the region are expanding their strategic and theater missile defense capabilities,” it says.

While China tries to improve its arsenal in relation to the US, and develop ‘full spectrum’ deterrence, this has an effect on India and consequently, on Pakistan.

The number of warheads don’t always give the complete picture. China, for instance, has around 25 DF-31A ballistic missiles with a range of 11,000+ kilometers. In other words, the ability to hit targets in the US. India has an undisclosed number of Agni-5s with a 5,200-km range, good enough to hit significant targets in China. However, the bulk of the arsenal is short range, clearly with Pakistan in mind. India is also trying to create a nuclear triad, but the report says it is still limited to short and mid-range with longer range missiles still a few years away.

However, Pakistan’s Shaheen-3, its longest range missile, has a limited range of 2,750, though even that is good enough to hit important targets in India.

The report says that “technical realities and doctrinal inclinations” will keep India a “inherently second strike system” against China and Pakistan. “Moreover, tight control over India’s operational nuclear force by civilians and the oversized role of the DRDO over new nuclear weapons development imply that military necessity is unlikely to be the principal driver of nuclear weapons policy,” it said.

The report says India’s willingness to sign the Hague Code of Conduct Against Ballistic Missile Proliferation “shows that such leverage can be effective given New Delhi’s ongoing campaign to secure the benefits of membership in the Nuclear Suppliers Group”. It suggests that it is time Pakistan and India formally joined the CTBT or converted their unilateral moratoria on nuclear testing into a legally binding agreement.

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