Arms Race of the 21st Century – Expansion of India’s Nuclear base

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A new world orderChina’s expansionist policies have undoubtedly brought the cold war era back. The recent tensions at the international level are very much accurate to label it as Cold War 2.0. However the players of this war are not the same. In place of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) we have the People’s Republic of China (PRC). A lot of resemblance can be noticed between the USSR of 1960s, 1970s and 1980s and the PRC of today. Just like USSR, China is an amalgamation of different states like East Turkestan, Tibet, Cantonia, Inner Mongolia and a communist nation that has a strong control over the information that goes out and comes in.

Why this conflict between the United States of America (USA) and the People’s Republic of China can be labelled as Cold War 2.0? Because now the world somewhat seems divided between these two nations, one bloc led by China which leads anti US sentiments and another led by USA which promotes anti China sentiments. China has leveled up its military expenditure to compete with the US and no one deny its attempts to capture the entire world trade.

This arms race which China has taken up is very worrisome if its expansionist policy is taken into consideration. China is now producing nuclear weapons at a very large scale to match up the nuclear stocks of Russia and United States. This possesses a major threat to the world as the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) which has no morals and ethics has had a history of trying to dominate the entire world, India being one of its victims. Over the years, India has tried its level best to develop peaceful relations with China. but the Dokhlam stand-off and the recent cowardly attack by the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) at the Galwan Valley has made the entire nation realise that just like Pakistan, China is another bad neighbour and it shouldn’t be taken lightly


China has adopted an aggressive nuclearization policy as per the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI). SIPRI is an independent international institute dedicated to research into conflict, armaments, arms control and disarmament. China is in the middle of a significant modernization and expansion of its nuclear arsenal. China’s nuclear warheads have increased from 290 in 2019 to 320 in 2020. This act by the PRC comes after the inventories of nuclear warheads continue to decline as the world aims to adopt a denuclearization policy and especially work towards achieving the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.

World military expenditure in the year 2019 is expected to be around $1917 Billion and the USA and China account for over half of it. China is the world’s second highest military spender as it spent $261 billion. This has massively increased after Xi Jinping took charge in 2013.

China is one of those countries that comes in top 5 of importers and exporters of arms and ammunition. From 2015-2019 SIPRI identified 160 states as importers of major arms and China stood 5th in that list. China is also the 5th largest supplier of major arms from 2015-2019.

China is not scared in flaunting its nuclear capabilities however it releases very few reports about force numbers and future development plans. Raw materials that are required to produce nuclear weapons are known as fissile materials. They are of two kinds (i) Highly Enriched Uranium (HEU) or (ii) separated plutonium. As per the SIPRI report,  out of the total 9 nuclear forces in the world as of 2019, only 5 have produced both HEU and separated plutonium and China is one of them. As per International Panel onn Fissile materials, China is estimated to possess 2.9+-0.6 metric tonnes of Weapons-grade Plutonium. Easy availability of the fissile material required to make nuclear weapons increases China’s capabilities to mass produce the weapons that can endanger humanity.

The report further stated that China is developing a so-called nuclear triad for the first time, made up of new land- and sea-based missiles and nuclear-capable aircraft. If China achieves success in developing such a nuclear triad, China will be able to threaten and dominate each and every nation around the world and especially those that have a border dispute with China. Its very much obvious that South-east Asian countries that are subject to Chinese aggression in the South China sea and India that is currently subject to Chinese aggression in Ladakh and Arunachal Pradesh will undoubtedly face hard times.


Considering its hostile neighbours, India has to keep up its defence forces to maintain its sovereignty. India has been spending extensively on military and strategic advancement. First significant step which the country has take to counter Chinese aggression and Pakistani terrorism is ramping up construction of roads in the border areas. The Border Road Organisation (BRO) is building roads faster than ever before. The highway ministry has also increased its budget for roads in the border areas by 4 times. The construction of roads along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) hasn’t been that great from the Indian side. Poor border infrastructure can prove costly in handling future Chinese aggressions thus it was very important for the government to speed up the construction.

India’s most controversial nuclear test was ‘Operation Shakti’ conducted on 11 May 1998 which shook the entire world. The Americans were furious as they couldn’t detect the preparations of the test thus regarded this as their biggest intelligence failure of the decade. Then PM of India, Atal Bihari Vajpayee wrote a letter to then President of the United States of America, Mr. Bill Clinton. In that letter he justified this nuclear test citing the distrust India had towards China because of 1964 war and its tendency to help enemy states like Pakistan building a strong nuclear program. This says that India’s nuclear strategy was primarily focused on countering China since the very beginning.

A report published by Bulletin of Atomic Scientists says that India’s nuclear strategy is now shifting from Pakistan to China. This trend has been observed after Indo-China conflict at Dokhlam in 2017. The authors of the report, Hans M. Kristensen and Matt Korda have noted that the Chinese capital Beijing is now in the range of India’s nuclear weapons. India had established a nuclear triad after the completion of  nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarine INS Arihant in 2018. The triad consists of Indian Air Force fighter jets like Rafale, Mirage 2000 and the Jaguars, intercontinental ballistic land missiles like Agni V having a range of 5000+ Kms and the Agni VI (which is under development) and submarine ballistic missiles like K4 having a range of 3500+ Kms. These high range missiles cover almost entire Pakistan and most of China. India is planning to build an eight legged triad which will be completed soon.

When it comes to India as a nuclear power, it has always adopted the ‘no first use policy’ since India is very much committed towards maintaining global peace. However it seems that the government aims to alter this policy when the Defence Minister Mr. Rajnath Singh said that this policy may change in future and it depends on circumstances.

As per SIPRI report, in 2019, India was ranked as the third largest military spender for the first time as it spend whooping $71.1 Billion. India was also the second largest importer of arms and ammunitions. With regards to nuclear weapons, the report stated that India is also thought to be increasing the size of their nuclear arsenals. The government makes statements on the missile tests however it chooses to remain silent on the status or the size of the arsenals. When it comes to the availability of raw materials (fissile materials) required to mass produce nuclear weapons, India, unlike China, produces only Plutonium. At present, India holds 150 nuclear warheads which is undoubtedly very less compared to that of China but a research article named “Rapidly expanding nuclear arsenals in Pakistan and India portend regional and global catastrophe” predicts India’s nuclear warheads to rise significantly to 250 by 2025.  Also in Harvard University’s Belfer Center discussion paper, it was concluded that India does have the capacity to build 2,686 nuclear weapons.

India cannot even think of lowering it defense considering hostile neighbors like Pakistan and China. Also if the Cold War 2.0 situation intensifies, India cannot afford to continue with non alignment policy and the same was advocated by India’s Foreign Minister S Jaishankar in a recent interview as India’s role in world politics has changed considerably from 1947 to 2020. India is looked as a country that staunchly opposes terrorism, expansionism and strongly advocates peace, security. India has a contribution to make and the world considers India to be one of those countries that can give a befitting reply to Chinese expansionism and a blow to the Chinese economy. India needs to keep itself strong and prepared. Times ahead don’t seem very comforting.

– Manav Asrani,

Writer, Bharat Bhagya Vidhata


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