As per a hypothetical study by the University of Colorado Boulder and Rutgers University, if India and Pakistan were to engage in a nuclear war, 50-125 million people could die within a week, with far-reaching devastating consequences across the world such as climate catastrophe and starvation.
Further, a report by Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) has said that the total number of weapons possessed by the United States, Russia, Britain, France, China, India, Pakistan, Israel, and North Korea is 13,865. While this means a decrease of 600 nuclear weapons from 2018, the study also states that nuclear-possessing countries have been rapidly modernising their arsenal. Currently, Russia and the United States have 90 per cent of the world’s nuclear arsenal, however, countries such as India and China could possess a combined count of 400-500 nuclear arsenal by 2025.
While five states China, France, Russia, United Kingdom, and the United State are officially recognised as possessing nuclear weapons by the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, NPT, four (India, Pakistan, Israel and North Korea) are non-NPT nuclear weapons possessors, and hence, are not legally recognised. We take a look at the nine nuclear-armed states and the kind of arsenal they possess:
The country that started the nuclear race, the United States has 6,185 weapons, as per the Arms Control Association. It became the first and only country to deploy nuclear weapons against an enemy state when when it dropped bombs in Heroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945, causing around 1,40,000 deaths by the end of the year, and leading to widespread destruction and devastation. The United States is also the only country which has stored its nuclear weapons in other nations – as per Nuclear Weapons Ban Monitor, the US has around 180 weapons stored in its air bases in Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany, Italy and Turkey. The country has refused to adopt a no-first use policy as it "reserves the right to use" nuclear weapons first in the case of conflict. Image credit: From left are the Peacekeeper, the Minuteman III and the Minuteman I While the exact number of weapons has not been revealed, the Arms Control Association estimates the total number at 6,490 nuclear weapons, the largest stockpile among all the nations. The Soviet Union conducted its first nuclear test in 1949, becoming the second nuclear state after the United States. Between 1949 and 1991, the Soviet Union is said to have manufactured approximately 55,000 nuclear warheads. In May 1992, the four states where nuclear weapons were deployed in the former Soviet Union – Russia, Ukraine, Belarus and Kazakhstan, signed the Lisbon Protocol, agreeing to join the NPT. While Russia joined as the nuclear state, being the legal successor of the Soviet Union, the others became non-nuclear states. Today, with Russia participating in bilateral arms control treaties, the country's nuclear stockpile has reduced. The country is, however, in the process of modernising its nuclear arsenal. The mushroom cloud from the first air-dropped bomb test in 1951. By Russian department of Atomic Energy Minatom https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=26980241 Image credit: The United Kingdom has a stockpile of 215 nuclear weapons, out of which 120 are usable warheads. Out of these 120 strategic warheads, not more than 40 are deployed at sea on one of its four nuclear ballistic missile submarine at any given time, under a Continuous at Sea Defense Posture. The country first conducted a nuclear test in 1952 and has since conducted 45 tests. The UK is a signatory of the nonproliferation treaty and has vowed that it will only use its nuclear weapons as defense. The UK's first nuclear test, Operation Hurricane, in Australia in 1952 Image: France has 300 nuclear weapons, with around 290 operational and 10 spares. The country first tested an independently developed weapon in 1960, under the Charles de Gaulle government. Under the Jacques Chirac government’s nuclear plans for the years 1997-2002, France saw the dismantling of many weapons systems. The country has also deactivated all land based nuclear missiles. France, however, maintains a first use policy where it says that it will use nuclear weapons against either nuclear or non-nuclear states only in the case of invasion or other attack against their territory or against one of their allies. The French nuclear-powered Image: aircraft carrier and the American nuclear-powered carrier Charles de Gaulle USS (left), each of which carry nuclear-capable Enterprise fighter aircraft In a speech in 1957, Chairman Mao was quoted to have said the following terrifying words - "I’m not afraid of nuclear war. There are 2.7 billion people in the world; it doesn’t matter if some are killed. China has a population of 600 million; even if half of them are killed, there are still 300 million people left. I’m not afraid of anyone.” Thankfully, such a nuclear war has not taken place as the country has snown more restraint. China, which is a legally recognised nuclear state, currently has 280 nuclear warheads. The country developed nuclear weapons as a deterrent against the United States and former Soviet Union and tested its first nuclear device in 1964 at the Lop Nur test site. China went on to test more weapons at the site, after which it issued a moratorium on nuclear testing. Over the years, the country has shown a more restrained attitude towards developing its nuclear arsenal. However, during its recent 70th anniversary celebration, China showcased its new nuclear arsenal, which included an inter-ballistic missile capable of reaching US in 30 minutes and a hypersonic ballistic nuclear missile which is believed to breach all existing anti-missile shields deployed by the United States and its allies. A mockup of China's first nuclear bomb. Image: While the details of Israel’s nuclear capacity is a tightly held state secret, estimates put the size of the country’s nuclear warheads at anything between 80 and 300. Israel’s main reginal enemies are states such as Iran, Syria and Iraq, all of which are non-nuclear. The country has also not conducted any nuclear tests so far, but is said to have acquired nuclear weapons since 1966. The SIPRI estimates that Israel has approximately 80 intact nuclear weapons, of which 50 are for delivery by Jericho II medium-range ballistic missiles and 30 are gravity bombs for delivery by aircraft. There was further speculation in 2012, as per SIPRI that Israel may also have developed nuclear-capable submarine-launched cruise missiles. Completed Dimona complex as seen by US Corona satellite on November 11, 1968 Image: India, which is not a signitory of the NPT, or the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), first tested its nuclear weapons in a ‘peaceful nuclear explosion’ in 1974. In 1998, India tested its weaponised nuclear warheads, when it conducted the Pokhran-II tests - a series of five nuclear bomb test explosions. Initially, the country's nuclear programme was conceived to boost the production of inexpensive electricity, however, India gradually moved to a complete nuclear fuel cycle which also allowed the country to pursue nuclear weapons. Currently, India has around 130-140 nuclear warheads and has been modernising its nuclear arsenal. According to a study published in the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, India has at least five new weapon systems under development to complement or replace existing nuclear-capable aircraft, land-based delivery systems, and sea-based systems. India has also moved on from a solely Pakistan-based nuclear strategy to include China as well. While the country’s military facilities remain off limits to international scrutiny, India has allowed safeguards in certain facilities that have been developed for civilian purposes. The Mirage 2000 of the Indian Air Force is believed to be assigned the nuclear strike role, operating from Maharajpur Air Force Station. Image: Former Pakistani President Zulfikar Ali Bhutto had once said, “If India builds the bomb, we will eat grass or leaves, even go hungry, but we will get one of our own.” From the initial stages of the country's nuclear programme in the 1950s to the current tense situation with India, Pakistan has been piling and evolving its nuclear doctrine and weapons, primarily keeping India in mind. In May 1998, after India successfully conducted its second nuclear test, Pakistan detonated five nuclear devices in the Chagai district in Balochistan. Pakistan is trying to build its nuclear triade – its nuclear arsenal includes ballistic missiles, nuclear tipped cruise missiles that can reach 400 miles, while it is believed to have modified its American built F-16 fighters to deliver nuclear bombs. Pakistan also has the Babur class of cruise missiles for the sea, which can be launched at both land and sea, while a submarine-launched version, Babur 3, was tested in 2018. Though it never joined the NPT and is not a legally recognised nuclear state, the country has a stockpile of 160 nuclear weapons. The main concern that experts have about the country’s nuclear programme is that not enough is being done by Islamabad to secure it. While the country's nuclear arsenal is kept under the military’s Strategic Plans Division, stored in Punjab Province, with tens of thousands of personnel guarding it, worries of it reaching rogue hands remain. A truck-mounted launch system (TEL) armed with 4 Babur cruise missiles on display at the IDEAS 2008 defence exhibition in Karachi, Pakistan. By SyedNaqvi90 at English Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=31334793 Image: North Korea is the only country to have tested its nuclear weapon in the 21st century, first testing its weapons in 2006. After being a part of the NPT, North Korea announced its decision to withdraw in 2003, after the United States accused it of having a secret uranium enrichment programme. In 2018, Pyongyang had announced that it would halt nuclear weapons tests and had made a commitment to denuclearise, however, with talks with the United States hitting a block, North Korea is once again eyeing nuclear weapons development, as per the North Korean foreign ministry. As per the Arms Control Association, North Korea is estimated to have 20-30 war heads and fissile material for 30-60 nuclear weapons. The country with the rogue state status has been criticised for diverting funds from essential services into developing the country’s nuclear programme. North Korea's ballistic missile. By Stefan Krasowski - https://www.flickr.com/photos/rapidtravelchai/9465934852/, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=58241477 Image: