China and Pakistan possess more nuclear weapons than India, according to a new yearbook released by a leading conflict and armaments think-tank on Monday.
The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI)’s Yearbook 2020 pegs the number of nuclear warheads in the Chinese arsenal at 320, while the nuclear forces of Pakistan and India are estimated to have 160 and 150 weapons, respectively.
The figures have been updated till January 2020.
India and its neighbours were ranked in the same order by SIPRI last year too when China possessed 290 nuclear warheads, Pakistan 150-160 and India had 130-140 warheads at the start of 2019.
The findings come at a time when India and China are caught in a border confrontation along the contested line of actual control in eastern Ladakh. Also, there is a noticeable military buildup on both sides of the border—stretching from Ladakh to Uttarakhand, Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh.
China is carrying out “significant modernisation” of its nuclear arsenal and developing a “so-called nuclear triad for the first time” made up of new land and sea-based missiles and nuclear-capable fighter jets, the SIPRI said in a statement announcing the launch of the yearbook.
“India and Pakistan are slowly increasing the size and diversity of their nuclear forces,” it said.
The yearbook, which “assesses the current state of armaments, disarmament and international security”, found while there has been an overall decrease in the number of nuclear warheads in 2019, all nuclear weapon-possessing countries continue to modernise their nuclear arsenals.
With 6,375 and 5,800 warheads, Russia and the United States together possess more than 90% of global nuclear weapons.
The nine nuclear-armed countries—the US, Russia, the United Kingdom, France, China, India, Pakistan, Israel and North Korea—together account for an estimated 13,400 nuclear weapons as of January 2020.
“This marked a decrease from the 13,865 nuclear weapons that SIPRI estimated these states possessed at the beginning of 2019. Around 3,720 of the nuclear weapons are currently deployed with operational forces and nearly 1,800 of these are kept in a state of high operational alert,” SIPRI’s statement said.
It also highlighted low levels of transparency in reporting on nuclear weapon capabilities.
“China now publicly displays its nuclear forces more frequently than in the past but releases little information about force numbers or future development plans,” the statement said.
“The governments of India and Pakistan make statements about some of their missile tests but provide no information about the status or size of their arsenals,” it added.
India was the third-biggest military spender in the world last year after the US and China, according to a SIPRI report released in April. It was the first time that two Asian countries featured among the top three military spenders.
New Delhi’s defence spending grew by 6.8% to reach $71.1 billion in 2019, said the report on Trends in World in World Military Expenditure.