The SIPRI yearbook report 2024 highlights that for the first time, India has surpassed Pakistan in terms of number of nuclear warheads. 

Key Highlights of the Report

  • Nine nuclear-armed nations, including the US, Russia, the UK, France, China, India, Pakistan, North Korea and Israel, continued to modernise their nuclear arsenals, and several of them deployed new nuclear-capable weapon systems in 2023.
  • Around 2,100 of the deployed warheads were kept in a state of high operational alert on ballistic missiles, (100 more than the previous year) and nearly all of them belonged to Russia or the US.
  • Russia and the US together possess almost 90% of all nuclear weapons.
  • China’s nuclear warheads increased from 410 warheads in January 2023 to 500 in January 2024, and it is expected to keep growing. Still, China’s Stockpile of nuclear warheads is much smaller than Russia or the US.

India’s “stored” nuclear warheads were 172 in January 2024, while the number for Pakistan was 170. Both India and Pakistan continued to develop new types of nuclear delivery systems in 2023. 

  • India has seen a slight expansion in its nuclear inventory, growing from 164 warheads in January 2023 to 172 warheads by January 2024, thus placing it 6th among the world’s nuclear-armed states.
  • Pakistan, meanwhile, has recorded no increase in the number of warheads which stood at 170 both in January 2023 and 2024. 

While Pakistan remains the main focus of India’s nuclear deterrent, India appears to be placing growing emphasis on longer-range weapons, including those capable of reaching targets throughout China.

  • Overall, the number of nuclear warheads in the world continues to decline. However, this is only due to the USA and Russia dismantling retired warheads.

Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) 

  • It is an independent international institute established in 1966 and dedicated to research into conflict, armaments, arms control and disarmament.
  • It provides data, analysis and recommendations, based on open sources, to policymakers, researchers, media and the interested public.
  • Headquarters: Stockholm, Sweden
CountryYear of the First Nuclear TestTotal Inventory
United States19455044
United Kingdom1952225
North Korea200650

India’s No first use policy

  • India has adhered to a nuclear no-first-use (NFU) policy since 1999. 
  • The country’s stated doctrine from January 2003 includes a pledge not to use nuclear weapons first but with a significant caveat, that nuclear weapons could be used if Indian forces are attacked with biological or chemical weapons.
  • India reaffirmed in 2018 that it could also use nuclear forces to retaliate against attacks by non-nuclear weapons of mass destruction (WMD).

Recent Developments 

  • In November 2019, India formally declared the operationalisation of its nuclear triad, after the country’s first SSBN, INS Arihant, completed its first deterrence patrol. 
  • In March 2024, India successfully conducted “Mission Divyastra” by launching Agni-V with multiple independently targetable re-entry vehicle (MIRV) technology. This placed India into a club of the few countries capable of delivering multiple nuclear warheads using a single missile. 

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