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India and Pakistan have both acquired a nuclear weapons capability outside the framework of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and are therefore considered de facto nuclear weapon states.

India and Pakistan are actively expanding their nuclear arsenals, largely to maintain a deterrent effect vis-à-vis each other. Both are continuing to produce and stockpile weapons-grade fissile material, while at the same time developing new delivery systems for their respective nuclear deterrents. Tensions between Indian and Pakistan have been described by Hans Kristensen and Matt Korda, of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, as constituting “one of the most concerning nuclear hotspots on the planet”.


India’s nuclear policies are motivated by regional threats, notably Pakistan but also increasingly China. In summary, India:

  • Has a policy of credible minimum deterrence and no first use.
  • Continues to produce weapons grade fissile material.
  • Is estimated to have a growing arsenal of 160 warheads.
  • Is not a party to the NPT or the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT).
  • Is actively expanding its delivery capabilities. Following the first deterrent patrol of a new ballistic missile submarine (SSBN) in 2018, India completed the “nuclear triad”, whereby its nuclear forces can be delivered by ground, air or sea-based forces.


The guiding principle of Pakistan’s nuclear policies is minimum credible deterrence. What Pakistan considers to be minimal, however, is guided by regional security considerations and the changing shape of India’s military forces. In 2013, Pakistan adopted the concept of full spectrum deterrence, to deter all forms of regional aggression. In summary, Pakistan:

  • Retains a policy of first use against nuclear armed states, such as India.
  • Is estimated to have a stockpile of 165 warheads.
  • Is expanding its nuclear arsenal faster than any other country. Although projections vary, over the next decade further quantitative and qualitative improvements in Islamabad’s nuclear arsenal are considered inevitable.
  • Is seeking to complete the nuclear triad.
  • Is not a party to the NPT or the CTBT and opposes a fissile material cut-off treaty unless existing stockpiles are included in any agreement.

This short paper is intended as an introduction to India and Pakistan’s nuclear weapons policies and programmes. It is part of a series of country profiles which are available on the House of Commons Library website.

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