India's Nuclear Doctrine: Notes for UPSC

India has possessed Nuclear Weapons. The first nuclear test was carried out in 1974, under the operation named “Smiling Buddha”. Once again India tested Nuclear weapons in the year 1998, under the name “Operation Shakti”. It would not be right to call India a Nuclear superpower as 90% of the worlds’ nuclear weapons are in the possession of Russia and USA.

Aspirants would find this topic very helpful in the IAS Exam.

India’s Nuclear Doctrine – UPSC Notes:- Download PDF Here

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What type of Nuclear bomb does India have?

India has neutron, fission and thermonuclear weapons which yields up to 200 Kilotons. Pokhran-II had 5 detonations, one was a fusion bomb and the remaining 4 were fission bombs. The bombs can be launched via land, air and sea, thus making India to be one of the few nations of the world who are nuclear triads.

How many land-based Nuclear Missiles does India have?

Strategic Forces Command controls and deploys 68 nuclear warheads (estimated) of land-based nuclear weapons of the country. It uses both vehicles and launching silos varieties. 

How will the air-based missiles be launched?

In addition to their ground-attack role, it is believed that the Dassault Mirage 2000s and SEPECAT Jaguars are able to provide a secondary nuclear-strike role. The SEPECAT Jaguar was designed to be able to carry and deploy nuclear weapons.

Land Based Ballistic Missiles of India

Name Type of Missile Range (KM) Status
Prithvi-I Short-range  150 Deployed
Prithvi-II Short-range 250-350
Prithvi-III Short-range  350-600
Agni- I Medium-range  700
Agni-II Medium-range 2000-3000
Agni-III Intermediate-range  3500-5000
Agni-IV Intermediate-range  4000
Agni-V Intermediate / Intercontinental  5000-8000
Agni-VII Intermediate / Intercontinental  8000-12000 Under development
Surya Intercontinental & MIRV 12000-16000 Unconfirmed

How will the sea-based missiles be launched?

There are two sea-based delivery system for nuclear weapons:

  • Submarine Launched System – Nuclear-Powered ballistic missile submarines of the Arihant Class (Four in numbers) are a part of it
  • Ship-Launched System –  Short range ship-launched Dhanush ballistic missile (a variant of the Prithvi missile) is a part of it. 

These are developed by the Indian Navy.

The names, type and range of these missiles are given in the table below:

Sea-Based Ballistic Missiles of India

Name Type of Missile Range (KM) Status
Dhanush Short-range  350 Operational
Sagaria (K-15) Submarine-launched  700 Operational
K-4 Submarine-launched  3500 Tested
K-5 Submarine-launched  5000 Under Development
K-6 Submarine-launched  6000 Under Development

Why did India decide to go Nuclear?

India lost the 1962 war with China. 2 years later, in 1964, China successfully tested Nuclear weapons. In addition the Sino-Pakistan alliance was also a factor. As such, the Government of India decided that only a very powerful deterrent could keep their aggressors at bay. Thus this was the reason for India deciding to develop nuclear weapons.

What are some of the main features of India’s Nuclear Doctrine?

Some of the main features of India’s nuclear doctrine are given below.

  1. “No First Use” policy – India will use nuclear weapons only in the event of a nuclear attack on India.
  2. It asserts that nuclear weapons are solely for deterrence and that India will pursue a policy of “retaliation only”
  3. Only Civilian political leadership has the power to authorize nuclear retaliation.
  4. The Government of India will not respond with a punitive retaliation should deterrence fail
  5. Nuclear weapons will never be used against non-nuclear weapon states.

India’s Nuclear Doctrine – UPSC Notes:- Download PDF Here

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UPSC 2023

Frequently Asked Question – India’s Nuclear Doctrine


Q.1. What is the meaning of nuclear doctrine?

Ans. Nuclear doctrine encompasses the goals and missions that guide the deployment and use of nuclear weapons, that determine each Nuclear Weapon States’ (NWS) force structure, declaratory policy and diplomacy.

Q.2. When was India declared a nuclear state?

Ans. On 13 May 1998, the Indian government led by Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee declared India a full-fledged nuclear state.

Q.3. How many nuclear warheads does India have?

Ans. India has 150 nuclear warheads, while China and Pakistan have 320 and 160.


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