India’s nuclear test of 1974, so-called, ‘Peaceful Nuclear Explosion (PNE)’, by diverting peaceful nuclear technology to military developments was the watershed moment in the history of South Asia.
This was the first case of horizontal nuclear proliferation since the formal inception of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) in 1967 as the country detonated a nuclear weapon at the Pokhran-1 test site using plutonium, believed to have been produced by the Canadian and U.S. supplied CIRUS reactor.
Despite international sanctions and widespread condemnation over its nuclear test, India, however, did not stop there. It, yet again, demonstrated its nuclear capability in May 1998 by conducting multiple nuclear tests.
It not only forced Pakistan to follow suit but also pushed South Asia towards a nuclear arms race.
The overt nuclearization of India offered two major challenges to the proponents of nuclear arms control. First how to deal with a nuclear India which is also outside the NPT and second how to restrict India’s vertical nuclear proliferation post-1998?
Challenges for the international community
Soon after its first nuclear test, both Canada and the U.S. suspended their peaceful nuclear cooperation with India.
Following the test, Canadian personnel working in India on another nuclear reactor were called back and also Canadian government further tightened its nuclear policies.
The U.S. also imposed sanctions on India, which made her a nuclear pariah. Despite severe global pressure, India did not roll back its nuclear program and refused to sign NPT.
The second challenge proved to be a daunting task for the international community. Despite multiple efforts to restrict India from vertical proliferation, the Indian nuclear arsenal not only modernized in the technical domain but also significantly increased in a number of warheads.
According to Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), India has over 150 nuclear weapons and its stockpile continues to grow at a rapid pace. However, this figure does not take India’s three-stage un-safeguarded nuclear power program into account.
According to a Belfer Center report, over the next decade, India will supersede China, France, and the UK in nuclear weapons stockpiles to become the third behind the U.S. and Russia.
The study further posits that India is already working to install more than five fast breeder reactors which will increase its weapons-grade plutonium production capacity by 20 times (700kg) every year.
Likewise, expansion in its centrifuge enrichment program will enable it to increase the production of highly enriched uranium for nuclear weapons to 160kg every year, which means that India can build approximately 80 to 90 plutonium-based and 7 to 8 uranium-based nuclear weapons every year.
Such a scenario will have disastrous ramification for South Asian stability in particular and the world at large.
India’s nuclear capability
While world powers somehow managed horizontal nuclear proliferation by introducing NPT, vertical proliferation remains the biggest challenge for the arms control instruments and mechanisms.
India currently has the world’s fastest-growing nuclear weapons program, and its nuclear arsenal is increasing by leaps and bounds. Despite global pressure, India has refused to participate in arms control measures.
At the moment, the rate of India’s nuclear modernization is unmatchable. India is massively spending on the modernization of its conventional forces and war machinery.
According to the SIPRI, India is the world’s largest arms importer from 1990 to 2019. Indian defence budget grew by 259% over a 30-year period and by 37% over the decade (2010-19).
Besides this, massive spending on conventional military modernization, India is also overwhelmingly spending on a nuclear weapons program. It is not modernizing its nuclear arsenal to deter but is preparing to fight a nuclear war.
India, therefore, has counterforce temptation, which is a doomsday scenario for South Asia.
A major concern for the world
Today’s India is headed by a former RSS member, which is the sole custodian of India’s nuclear weapons and has a history of threatening Pakistan with nuclear weapons.
PM Modi threatened Pakistan saying that India had not kept its nuclear weapons for Diwali fireworks.
This was not the first time he had threatened Pakistan with nuclear weapons. In the Balakot crisis, Modi had threatened Pakistan with ‘Qatal ki raat (a night of slaughter),’ referring to the use of nuclear weapons by India.
This is the level of India’s strategic behaviour towards its nuclear capability. Nuclear weapons in India are literally in the wrong hands.
There is a need for greater attention from the international community to address India’s nuclear madness as Indian nuclear capability is fast becoming a global migraine.
The author is a graduate in Defence and Diplomatic Studies and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.The views expressed in the article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space.