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India: Space and Nuclear Programs
Country Study > Chapter 10 > National Security > Organization and Equipment of the Armed Forces > Space and Nuclear Programs

SPACE AND NUCLEAR PROGRAMS


India detonated its first and only nuclear device at Pokharan in the Rajasthan Desert in May 1974. Subsequently and in all likelihood as a consequence of international pressure, India has chosen not to conduct any further tests. At a formal level, Indian officials and strategists deny that India possesses nuclear weapons and refer to India's position as an "options strategy," which essentially means maintaining the nuclear weapons option and exercising it should regional and international conditions so warrant. In pursuit of this end, India refuses to sign the 1968 Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons. Formally, Indian officials argue that India's refusal to sign the treaty stems from its fundamentally discriminatory character; the treaty places restrictions on the nonnuclear weapons states but does little to curb the modernization and expansion of the nuclear arsenals of the nuclear weapons states.

The Indian ballistic missile program has some elements in common with the nuclear program. Under the aegis of the Integrated Guided Missile Development Programme, India is developing rockets of varying ranges: the Agni, the Prithvi, the Akash, the Trishul, and the Nag. The Agni, which former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi referred to as a "technology demonstrator," was first test fired in May 1989 and again in May 1992. In 1995 it was not yet operational, but it has intercontinental ballistic missile potential. The Prithvi -- which some sources reported had an operational unit raised in 1995 and deployed along the Pakistani border -- is a tactical, short-range surface-to-surface missile designed by the DRDO as part of India's antimissile defense system. Based on the Soviet Scud missile, its 250-kilogram payload can be launched from a mobile launcher. The Trishul is a sea-skimming short-range missile. The Akash is a multitarget surface-to-air missile that was being test fired in 1994 and 1995. The Nag is essentially an antitank missile.

The Indian missile program has been of concern to the United States, which, under the terms of the Missile Technology Control Regime, imposed sanctions against the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) in June 1992. In July 1993, the United States prevailed upon the Russian space agency, Glavkosmos, not to transfer cryogenic rocket engines to India. The ISRO decided it would develop the engine on its own by 1997 while continuing to seek purchase of modified versions of the engines from Russia. Seven such cryogenic engines were scheduled for delivery by Glavkosmos between 1996 and 1999. In keeping with its agreement with the United States, Glavkosmos was not going to transfer additional technology for cryogenic engines. However, cryogenic engine technology transfer had begun in 1991, and hence leading ISRO officials were confident about their 1997 projection.

Data as of September 1995




Last Updated: September 1995


Editor's Note: Country Studies included here were published between 1988 and 1998. The Country study for India was first published in 1995. Where available, the data has been updated through 2008. The date at the bottom of each section will indicate the time period of the data. Information on some countries may no longer be up to date. See the "Research Completed" date at the beginning of each study on the Title Page or the "Data as of" date at the end of each section of text. This information is included due to its comprehensiveness and for historical purposes.

Note that current information from the CIA World Factbook, U.S. Department of State Background Notes, Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade Country Briefs, the UK's Foreign and Commonwealth Office's Country Profiles, and the World Bank can be found on Factba.se.

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