Nuclear policy of India

Russia’s threats to use nuclear weapons against Ukraine if it does not surrender have cast doubt on the world’s ability to prevent nations from employing such weapons. The potential use of nuclear weapons is a cause for global concern, affecting not only Ukraine but the entire international community.

This legal note intends to outline the international initiatives aimed at preventing the use and spread of nuclear weapons by nation-states. Additionally, it will provide an analysis of India’s policy on the development and proliferation of its nuclear arsenal.

What Are Nuclear Weapons?

Nuclear weapons are those weapons that are so dangerous that their use may destroy mankind. They generate a huge amount of energy in the form of blasts and radiation. Nuclear weapons create an explosion in the form of a fireball, and it takes not even ten seconds for this fireball to reach its maximum size. Even a single nuclear bomb is enough to kill millions of people if it is dropped over a city.

These weapons have both immediate and long-term effects. While immediate results include death, severe burns, internal damage, and lung injuries, the long-term effects include cancer and genetic damage.

Therefore, the use of these weapons is not frequent. They were only used when the USA detonated two bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki after World War II in 1945. Since then, international efforts have been made to regulate the use of these weapons.

It is also to be noted that these nuclear weapons have positive and beneficial uses too. They may be used in medical science to create energy, generate electricity, and provide clean energy. This is popularly known as the peaceful use of nuclear energy.

Need for International Law

International law governs the actions and conduct of nation-states. The necessity for such regulations has emerged because advancements in science and technology have transformed the world into a global village.

Problems of terrorism, cybercrimes, trafficking, money laundering, the performance of contractual obligations in carrying out trade or business, global warming and other environmental threats, and issues related to intellectual property rights are not limited to national borders.

Therefore, international law seeks to address these issues by promoting international peace & security and friendly relations among nation-states. The said international law aims to create a balance between the protection of the sovereignty of the nations on the one hand and the need to synchronise the actions of nation-states on the other hand, which is required for the peaceful existence of mankind.

Countries have acknowledged the need for a superior international authority to regulate and manage the actions of nation-states. This is reflected in the establishment of the United Nations, the world’s largest international organisation, in 1945. The primary object of the organisation was to maintain international peace.

International law also functions by way of the formation of treaties, whether multilateral or bilateral, wherein nation-states that sign a treaty commit to abide by it.

International Treaty for Regulating Nuclear Weapons

The generation or proliferation of nuclear weapons is regulated by an international treaty known as the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) or Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons.

Soon after World War II, it was realised that an unregulated nuclear world would only be a menace to people, and accordingly, the treaty to prevent the harmful use of nuclear weapons was signed.

The treaty was signed in 1968 and implemented in 1970. This treaty divides the states into nuclear states and non-nuclear states. Nuclear states are those that developed nuclear weapons or nuclear explosive devices before January 1, 1967, which are ChinaFranceRussia, the USA, and the UK; the others are non-nuclear states.

Broadly, to prevent the proliferation of nuclear weapons, the treaty prohibits non-nuclear states from developing and producing nuclear weapons and simultaneously forbids nuclear weapon states from transferring the technology to non-nuclear states.

In return, the non-nuclear states would get the know-how to produce nuclear technology from nuclear states for peaceful purposes. The treaty itself acknowledges the right of non-nuclear states to develop nuclear weapons for peaceful purposes.

The nuclear-weapon states have been prohibited from using nuclear weapons against non-nuclear states except in response to a nuclear attack. The treaty also aims for complete disarmament, i.e., reducing the number of weapons to zero. Around 191 nations are parties to the treaty.

IndiaPakistanIsrael, and North Korea are the only countries that possess nuclear weapons but have not signed the treaty.

Why Is India Not a Signatory of the Non-Proliferation Treaty?

India declared itself a nuclear weapon state in 1998. It has not signed the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT), viewing it as discriminatory. India believes the treaty is biased against non-nuclear states, as it permits only recognized nuclear-weapon states to develop and maintain nuclear arsenals. Additionally, security concerns make India hesitant to sign the treaty.

India’s defeat by China in 1962 motivated the country to develop its nuclear capabilities. This need was further intensified by the 1965 war with Pakistan, during which China supported Pakistan. India also realized it could not depend on the USA and Russia for border security.

Consequently, India conducted its first nuclear test, Pokhran-I, in 1974. With both Pakistan and China already possessing nuclear weapons and adopting aggressive stances, India felt it essential to have its own nuclear arsenal.

India’s second nuclear test, Pokhran-II, in 1998, showcased its ability to use nuclear weapons for military purposes, drawing global condemnation.

Currently, India’s nuclear policy is centered on deterring other countries from using nuclear weapons against it. India maintains that it would deploy its nuclear weapons solely in defense, not as an aggressor.


Although India is the land of Buddha, who has always promoted peace, it must develop a deterrent to safeguard its own protection, territorial integrity, and sovereignty.

Russia’s threat to use nuclear weapons against Ukraine highlights the vulnerability of non-nuclear states and the potential for nuclear-armed nations to exploit this imbalance. This situation underscores India’s rationale for not signing the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons.

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