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South Asia: India,Pakistan


Current status. In 1998, India and Pakistan conducted tests of nuclear weapons, following which both states declared themselves to be nuclear weapon states. India and Pakistan are not parties to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) {see section 602} or the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) {see section 608}, the two existing multilateral treaties dealing with nuclear weapons. India and Pakistan both rejected the call by the 2000 NPT Review Conference for their accession to the NPT as non-nuclear states {see ACR 602bNPT00 24.4-19.5}.

In the aftermath of the terrorist attacks in the United States on 11 September 2001, the safety of Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal and the possibility of terrorists’ gaining access to Pakistan’s nuclear technology through contacts with Pakistani nuclear scientists emerged as major concerns {see ACR 454e4SAN01}.

Following a terrorist attack on India’s Parliament on 13 December 2001, India massed its forces along its border with Pakistan. Pakistan also mobilized its forces along the border. Pakistan reportedly moved its nuclear missiles, prompting a similar Indian action. Despite Pakistan’s first-use nuclear doctrine, its Foreign Minister Sattar said the use of nuclear weapons is “inconceivable.” Indian Defense Minister Fernandes said Pakistan could not think of a nuclear strike against India because the latter could absorb a Pakistani first strike and still destroy Pakistan {ACR 454bSAN01 late December}. Following another terrorist action in May 2002, nuclear war in South Asia again became a possibility {ACR 454bSAN02 16.5}.

Although India and Pakistan have leveled nuclear threats at each other {ACR 454bSAN02 7.6}, a new peace overture by Indian Prime Minister Vajpayee in April 2003 has created prospects for better relations {ACR 454bSAN03 18.4}. The two countries moved restore travel links {ACR 454bSAN03 11.7, 1.12} and declared a Kashmir ceasefire in November 2003 {ACR 454bSAN03 23.11}, but have not progressed on dialogue on Kashmir.

In 2004, despite the A Q Khan scandal and mutual concerns over military hardware from the USA, India and Pakistan discussed nuclear confidence-building measures in two rounds of talks but failed to make much progress on strategic issues {ACR454bSAN04 20.9}.


India’s tests. India conducted three underground tests on 11 May 1998 and two more tests on 13 May 1998. Indian officials claimed that the tests conducted at Pokhran, codenamed Shakti I through V, consisted of a fusion device with a yield of 43 kilotons and fission devices with yields of 12, 0.2, 0.2, and 0.6 kilotons respectively. Foreign observers, however, expressed doubts, especially about the Indian claim that the 43-kiloton device was a fusion weapon {11.5.98; 16.9.98}. The chairman of India’s Atomic Energy Commission later claimed that analysis of core samples from the explosions confirmed their estimates of the tests’ yields {29.7.99}. He also claimed that India could build neutron bombs.

Pakistan’s tests. On 28 May 1998, Pakistan announced that it had conducted five nuclear tests, consisting of one device with a yield of 30-35 kt and four small tactical weapons. Seismic stations abroad, however, detected only one test. Pakistan conducted one more test of a 14-15 kt device on 30 May. Foreign observers also expressed doubts about the claimed yields of the Pakistani devices {28.5.98; 16.9.98}. US analysts and British scientists disagreed on whether the devices tested released plutonium, indicating the use of plutonium rather than uranium {box 31.3.99; ACR 454e3SAN01}.

International reaction to the tests. The tests elicited condemnation by most countries {11.5.98; 28.5.98} and many international groups, including the P-5 {4.6.98}, the UN Security Council {6.6.98}, the G-8 {12.6.98}, the European Parliament {18.6.98}, and, in more muted form, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) {25.7.98} and the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) {2-3.9.98}. The United States, Japan, and several other countries imposed sanctions on both countries. The P-5 declared that India and Pakistan did not have NWS status under the NPT {ACR 602bNPT98 4.6}.

International attention since the tests has focused on persuading India and Pakistan to join the global nuclear nonproliferation regime by adhering to the NPT and the CTBT and joining Conference on Disarmament (CD) negotiations on a treaty to ban production of fissile material.

Deployment. India and Pakistan have not yet deployed any nuclear arms, but rather keep warhead components in separately to be quickly assembled if necessary {San Francisco Chronicle 22.2.04}. Concerning nuclear delivery systems, India has deployed its 150-km Prithvi I missile {
India/Missile/1931_2024.html} and in 2004 began deploying the 2000+-km and 700-km versions of its Agni missile {454e3SAN04 30.8}. Pakistan reportedly deployed indigenously-produced medium-range missiles (Ghauri I or Ghauri II) in January 2003 {San Francisco Chronicle 22.2.04} and the 290-km range Hatf III missile in 2004 {DPA 21.2.04}.

South Asia nuclear-weapon-free zone. After India tested a nuclear device in 1974, Pakistan proposed a South Asian nuclear-weapon-free zone (NWFZ) in the UN General Assembly. Since 1976, the General Assembly has repeatedly passed resolutions calling for the establishment of such a zone. India votes against these resolutions. In line with its consistent advocacy of global rather than regional disarmament, it opposes a NWFZ in South Asia on the grounds that “[g]iven the global reach and deployment of those [nuclear] weapons, such zones could provide at best an illusion of security against weapons whose effects do not respect territorial or regional boundaries” {17.10.97}.


Nuclear facilities agreement.
India and Pakistan signed an agreement on 31 December 1988 not to attack each other’s nuclear facilities. Furthermore, the two countries agreed to exchange lists of nuclear power plants and research installations annually as of the first of January. The agreement entered into force on 27 January 1991{1.1.92}. In January 2003—the 12th straight year of the exchange—India provided details of ten nuclear installations, while Pakistan gave a list of six nuclear facilities {2.1.04}. This occurred again in January 2004 for the 13th time. {1.1.04}.

Exercise notifications. On 6 April 1991, India and Pakistan completed agreements on advance notification of military exercises and the prevention of airspace violations by military aircraft. In the two rounds of confidence-building talks in 2004, India and Pakistan exchanged drafts and discussed a formal agreement for prior notice of missile tests {454bSAN04 14–15.12}

Hotline. In 1997, the Indian and Pakistani prime ministers met in New York and decided to establish direct communications between their army headquarters, so as to stop firing across the line of control in Kashmir {22.9.97}. The hotline fell into disuse, but was revived in 2000 {17.12.00}. In 2004 India and Pakistan discussed improving the military hotline and setting up another between their foreign secretaries {19–20.6.04, 14–15.12.04}.

India-Pakistan bilateral talks. A meeting between the Indian and Pakistani prime ministers in Colombo in July 1998 made no headway {31.7.98}. Official India-Pakistan talks resumed in 1998, but made little progress on key issues {31.7.98; 16-18.10.98}. Both sides, however, proposed several confidence-building measures (CBMs) and other measures.

In 1999, talks between Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif resulted in the Lahore Declaration {ACR 454dSAN99}, pledging both countries to increased cooperation and regional security, including assurances against the accidental or unauthorized use of their nuclear arsenals {ACR 454bSAN99 21.2}. The Lahore MOU { ACR 454dSAN99} specifically addressed measures to be taken to control the use of nuclear weapons in the region. Prospects for an Indo-Pakistan détente were dealt a serious setback, however, by the Kargil crisis { ACR 454bSAN99 4.7} and the coup in Pakistan {12.10.99}. India insisted that the process of dialogue with Pakistan could not be resumed until Pakistan restores the proper climate by ending support for terrorism in Kashmir, arguing that “terrorism and dialogue do not go together” {6.9.00}.

In 2001, India invited Pakistan’s military ruler General Pervez Musharraf to visit India for talks on Kashmir and other issues. The talks failed because of Musharraf’s insistence that India accept the “centrality” of the Kashmir dispute while refusing to commit Pakistan to end support for terrorism in Kashmir. { ACR 454bSAN01 14-16.7} India now refuses to talk to Pakistan until it “permanently” ends the infiltration of terrorists from Pakistan into Kashmir.

In April 2003 Prime Minister Vajpayee made a new initiative for peace, welcomed by Pakistan { ACR 454bSAN03 18.4}. In May, Pakistan suggested a formalized halted in nuclear testing, and a mutual agreement to notify each other of ballistic missile tests { ACR 706e2MNP03 12.5}. Some travel links have been restored, envoys reappointed, and a cease-fire in Kashmir declared, but no progress on conflict resolution dialogue.

In January 2004 Prime Minister Vajpayee and President Musharraf agreed on a new round of talks, which in June discussed the nuclear test moratorium, pre-notification of missile tests, and hotlines {454bSAN04 19–20.6}. The two countries agreed to open new consulates and staff their embassies to full capacity for the first time since December 2001 {454bSAN04 27–28.6}. Another round of talks took place in November and December, discussing a broad range of bilateral issues.

US bilateral talks. Following the Indian and Pakistani nuclear tests, the United States held several rounds of bilateral talks with India and Pakistan separately. The talks focused on the US goal of persuading India and Pakistan to adhere to the global non-proliferation regime and the Indian and Pakistani goals of ending the US economic sanctions against them.

In 2001, US efforts initially focused on forging a strategic relationship with India, including the sale of US arms to India {6.4.01; 2.5.01} and an agreement in 2003 to lift a US ban on sales of dual-use nuclear, missile, and space technology to India {ACR 706e1MNP03 19.12}. After the 11 September terrorist attacks, US concerns widened to include the safety of Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal and the threat of a war between India and Pakistan. President Bush held talks with Indian Prime Minister Vajpayee and Pakistan’s President Musharraf in 2001 and 2002.

Senior US officials made several trips to India and Pakistan throughout 2002 to defuse Indo-Pak tensions. In 2003 US and international concerns over Pakistan’s alleged past nuclear cooperation with states such as Iran and North Korea heightened.

In 2004 US bilateral relations with both India and Pakistan deepened. Despite imposing sanctions on two Indian scientists accused of proliferation activities {29.9}, the United States stated its interest in expanding the strategic partnership with India in four areas {27.10}. and selling the Patriot anti-missile system to India {27.11}. President Bush and President Musharraf discussed efforts in the War on Terror and a deal to sell 25 F-16 jets to Pakistan {4.12}.


Bangladesh favors a South Asian NWFZ. It has a research reactor.

Bhutan opposes the South Asian NWFZ.

China has assisted the Pakistani nuclear program {ACR 1997 status section; 12.3.98; 11.6.98}, but criticized the Pakistani tests as well as the Indian tests {11.5.98; 28.5.98}. China favors a South Asian NWFZ. It has begun balanced joint naval exercises with both countries {ACR 454e3SAN03 6.11}. China has expressed opposition to the idea that India and Pakistan should be officially recognized as nuclear weapon states under the NPT {454bSAN04 30.6}.

France favors the NWFZ. It reacted mildly to the nuclear tests and expressed interest in peaceful nuclear collaboration with India {28.1.98; 16.7.98}. In 2004 Foreign Minister Barnier ruled out French assistance to India’s civilian nuclear program {29.10}.

India, which first tested a nuclear device on 8 May 1974, set off five underground tests in 1998 {11.5.98}. India opposes a NWFZ and favors general and complete global disarmament. India has supported a nuclear weapon convention {31.5.98}, a conference on abolishing nuclear arms {10.6.98}, a Sino-Indian de-targeting agreement {8.8.98}, and a no-first-use agreement with Pakistan {28.5.98, 7.7.98}. It has a doctrine of “recessed” deterrence {17.6.98} and insists on maintaining a “minimum deterrent” {6.7.98; 15.12.98}, but is willing to destroy its nuclear weapons if other nuclear powers do so as well {3.10.98}. It reportedly has the capability to conduct subcritical tests {21.9.98} and plans to build a nuclear-powered submarine by 2004 {30.6.98}. It has expressed willingness to join the fissile material treaty negotiations {6.6.98} and observes a nuclear test moratorium {26.5.98}. In April 1999, India tested a nuclear-capable intermediate-range missile, the Agni-II {11.4.99}. In August 1999, India released a draft nuclear doctrine that proposed that India maintain a survivable nuclear deterrent based on a triad of delivery systems under civilian control {17.8.99}. In 2001, India began “limited production” of Agni missiles and authorized the creation of an Agni strategic missile group {ACR 454e3SAN01 31.5; 19.11}. On 4 January 2003, the Indian cabinet established a strategic nuclear command to control all of India’s nuclear weapons {ACR 454bSAN03 4.1}. The group held its first meeting on 2 September to discuss all aspects of India’s strategic nuclear forces program {ACR 454e3SAN03 2.9}. India’s quest for a robust civilian nuclear energy program continues with plans to build nine more reactors {454e3SAN04 22.7} and establish a three-stage program {14.7}. In May 2004 Prime Minister Vajpayee said India’s nuclear arms program was not aimed at any country in particular {2.5} India tested the 250–300-km-range Prithvi III missile for the first time {27.10}.

Japan suspended economic assistance to India and Pakistan after their nuclear tests and insisted that both countries sign the CTBT and participate in talks to ban fissile material production before such assistance would be renewed {17-20.1.99; 16.2.99}. Japan later lifted the sanctions, citing Indian and Pakistani contributions to the war on terrorism. {ACR 454bSAN02 26.10} In 2003 Japan became increasingly concerned about allegations of Pakistan’s nuclear collaboration with North Korea {21.6.03}.

Maldives and Sri Lanka favor a South Asian NWFZ.

Nepal favors a South Asian NWFZ and has called itself a zone of peace.

Pakistan conducted nuclear tests in May 1998 {28.5.98}. It rejected India’s offer of a nuclear no-first-use agreement {1.6.98; 18.7.98; 20.7.00; 16.10.00}, but offered not to deploy nuclear weapons if India reciprocates {10.11.98} and to negotiate a nuclear restraint regime and mutual reduction of forces with India {28.5.00; 6.9.00}. At the height of a confrontation with India in December 2001, Pakistan declared that the use of nuclear weapons is “inconceivable.” {Late December 01} After the 1998 tests, Pakistan expressed its willingness to join fissile material treaty talks {30.7.98} and sign the CTBT {23-24.9.98}, and it declared a moratorium on further tests {11.6.98}. It has conducted shock and vibration tests of its nuclear warheads to prepare for arming its Ghauri missiles with nuclear warheads. {20.9.98} A visit to Pakistan’s Kahuta research center by the Saudi Arabian defense minister raised concerns in the West {7.5.99}.
In May 1999, Pakistan-backed intruders provoked the Kargil crisis with India, during which Pakistan made nuclear threats {30.5.99}. Under US pressure, Pakistan agreed to pull out the intruders. {4.7.99} Pakistan reacted harshly to India’s draft nuclear doctrine {17.8.99} but announced that its own policy was to maintain a minimum nuclear deterrent. {8.11.99} Concerns were expressed that Pakistan might pay for North Korean missile technology by providing nuclear technology to North Korea. {23.8.99} In 2001, Pakistan moved its nuclear warheads to undisclosed locations, fearing that they might fall into the hands of terrorists and amid reports that the United States was considering military steps to gain custody of the warheads {ACR 454e4SAN01 10.11; 14.11}. Pakistan detained and questioned some former nuclear scientists for their alleged ties to terrorists {ACR 454e4SAN01 23.10; 11.12}.

In 2002, Pakistan’s UN Ambassador Munir Akram declared that Pakistan might use nuclear weapons even against Indian conventional attacks and Indian attempts to strangle Pakistan economically {ACR 454bSAN02 29.5}. Pakistan decided to build two more reactors {ACR 454e4SAN02 3.9}. US intelligence agencies concluded that Pakistan aided in the creation of a uranium enrichment program in North Korea {ACR 454bSAN02 18.11}.

In 2003, Pakistan’s alleged transfer of nuclear-weapon technology to Iran and North Korea took center stage, leading to questioning of Pakistani nuclear scientists and former political figures. Pakistan denied the charges and insisted that its nuclear program existed purely to match India’s. {ACR 454e4SAN03 4.11}

In 2004, there was international uproar over the revelation that Pakistani Nuclear scientist A Q Khan was the center of a nuclear black market which transferred nuclear technology to Libya, Iran, and North Korea {454e4SAN04 2.2}. After Khan’s admission Pakistan promptly pardoned him {5.2} and rejected calls for an investigation by outside bodies {17.2, 2.10}. Pakistan has also stated it is willing to reduce its nuclear stockpile if India does the same {4.6}. In March Pakistan tested the 200-km-range, nuclear-capable Shaheen I missile for the first time {9.3}

Russia condemned the South Asian nuclear tests, but did not impose any sanctions on India or Pakistan. It signed a military-technical cooperation agreement with India {20-22.12.98} and a contract to build a 2000 MW nuclear power plant in Kudankulam {21.6.98; 20.7.98}. During President Putin’s visit in 2000, India and Russia signed a confidential memorandum of understanding on nuclear cooperation and agreements on military cooperation {3.10.00}. The two countries signed a joint statement on strategic issues and a MOU on the Kudankulam plant during Prime Minister Vajpayee’s visit to Russia in June 2001 {ACR 454bSAN01 6.11}.

In 2001, Russia supplied India low-enriched uranium (LEU) for the Tarapur power plant despite objections by other members of the Nuclear Suppliers Group {ACR 454e3SAN01}. In 2003, Russia continued to provide assistance in India’s civilian nuclear program, namely two reactors at Kudankulam {ACR 454e3SAN03 17.5}, and India leased a Akula-class nuclear submarine from Russia. {ACR 454e3SAN03 18.1} Bowing to pressure, Russia subsequently cancelled the deal to build more reactors {ACR 454e3SAN03 3.6}.

In 2004, Russia argued to the Nuclear Supplier’s Group that a special exception to forbidding the sale of civilian nuclear technology to non-NPT signatory countries should be made for India {6.4}, and expressed its willingness to sell such technology to India if the NSG agrees {8.12}. It denied reports of a deal to sell nuclear submarines to India {1.12}. The Indo-Russian BrahMos missile venture proceeded with marketing outreach {7.4} and new investments planned {3.12}.

The United States supports a NWFZ in South Asia. It led the international condemnation of the Indian and Pakistani nuclear tests and imposed sanctions on both countries {11.5.98; 28.5.98; 18.6.98}. US policy aims to prevent an escalation of the nuclear and missile competition in the region, strengthen the global non-proliferation regime, and promote an India-Pakistan dialogue to resolve their dispute over Kashmir {12.11.98}. With these goals in mind, the United States engaged in protracted separate discussions with India and Pakistan throughout 1998-2000. In 2000, President Clinton met with Indian Prime Minister Vajpayee in New Delhi and Washington and with Pakistan’s military ruler Musharraf in Islamabad. India and the United States agreed to institutionalize their dialogue, but failed to narrow their differences on nuclear issues {21.3.00; 15.9.00}. Some of the US sanctions against both countries were eased in 1998 and 1999 {2.12.98; 29-31.1.99}. In October 1999, the US Congress adopted the Brownback II Amendment, authorizing the lifting of the economic sanctions. The economic sanctions against India were lifted in 2000. In 2001, the Bush administration began preparations to remove the remaining sanctions against India, while retaining some sanctions against Pakistan under legislation dealing with countries where democratic governments have been overthrown. However, as the United States prepared for military action in Afghanistan, it lifted all sanctions against both countries {ACR 454bSAN01 22.9}. The United States also resumed military ties with India and decided to revive the Defense Policy Group with India {ACR 454bSAN01 19.7; 9.11}. It revived the Defense Consultative Group with Pakistan in 2002 {ACR 454bSAN02 26.9}.

In 2003, after discussions on military cooperation, the US lifted a ban on the transfer of dual-use nuclear, missile, and space technology to India {ACR 706e1MNP03 19.12}. The US imposed sanctions on the Khan Research Laboratory in Pakistan, for its alleged role in proliferating nuclear technology to North Korea {ACR 454e4SAN03 31.5}.

In 2004, the USA provided India with advanced nuclear and space technology in exchange for India’s promise to use it for peaceful purposes and to be committed to nonproliferation {ACR 454e3SAN04 12.1}. The United States has proposed selling the Patriot anti-missile system to India {27.11}. The USA designated Pakistan a “major non-NATO ally” {ACR 454e4SAN04 19.3} and in November the Pentagon announced plans for a $1.2 bn arms sale to Pakistan {16.11}.

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