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The journey began with the vision of physicist Homi Bhabha, who convinced Prime Minister Nehru to invest in nuclear technology despite international disapproval. India’s first Peaceful Nuclear Explosion (PNE) in Pokhran in 1974 marked a significant achievement, but it also triggered international condemnation. The IAEA, world powers, and even some fuel suppliers distanced themselves from India.

By the late 1990s, India’s security concerns escalated, leading to further nuclear tests in 1998. This resulted in exclusion from crucial nuclear groups like the NSG (Nuclear Suppliers Group) and CTBT (Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty). However, India responded by formulating a distinct nuclear doctrine.

India’s nuclear doctrine emphasizes “No First Use,” meaning it would only retaliate with nuclear weapons in response to a first strike by another nuclear state or a large-scale chemical/biological attack. This doctrine, based on necessity and proportionality, stands in contrast to Pakistan’s “Full Spectrum Deterrence” policy, which allows for the potential first use of nuclear weapons in certain scenarios.

The discussion of nuclear capabilities often revolves around warhead numbers. Estimates suggest India and Pakistan possess around 150-160 warheads each, with Pakistan holding a slight edge. China, however, possesses a significantly larger arsenal (estimated at over 300 warheads), primarily aimed at deterring the US and its allies.

While warhead numbers are important, delivery systems play a crucial role. Both India and Pakistan have a mix of medium and long-range missiles. However, Pakistan’s systems are primarily focused on India, whereas India’s consider both Pakistan and China.

India’s edge lies in its sea-based nuclear deterrent with the nuclear-powered submarine Arihant and a planned second platform. Additionally, India’s larger size provides a geographical advantage in dispersing its nuclear arsenal.

Through complex diplomatic efforts, India has emerged from its initial isolation. It is now a recognized nuclear power, a member of the NSG, and has bilateral nuclear agreements with several countries, including all major nuclear powers except China.