Pakistan now has more nuclear warheads than India but it is China which continues to modernise its nuclear weapon delivery systems and is slowly increasing the size of its nuclear arsenal, says the latest report of the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI).

The report, released by the premier institute on Monday, said Pakistan now has 140-150 nuclear warheads as compared to 130-140 of India. China possesses some 280 nuclear warheads.

The report said India and Pakistan were both expanding their nuclear weapon stockpiles as well as developing new land, sea and air-based missile delivery systems. China continued to modernise its nuclear weapon delivery systems and was slowly increasing the size of its nuclear arsenal.

At the start of 2018 nine states—the United States, Russia, the United Kingdom, France, China, India, Pakistan, Israel and North Korea—possessed about 14,465 nuclear weapons. This marked a decrease from the nearly 14,935 nuclear weapons that SIPRI estimated these states possessed at the beginning of 2017.

The decrease in the overall number of nuclear weapons in the world was due mainly to Russia and the US—which together still account for nearly 92 per cent of all nuclear weapons—further reducing their strategic nuclear forces pursuant to the implementation of the 2010 Treaty on Measures for the Further Reduction and Limitation of Strategic Offensive Arms (New START).

Despite making limited reductions to their nuclear forces, both Russia and the US have long-term programmes underway to replace and modernise their nuclear warheads, missile and aircraft delivery systems, and nuclear weapon production facilities, the report added.

It noted that the US’s most recent Nuclear Posture Review (NPR), published in February 2018, reaffirmed the modernisation programmes and approved the development of new nuclear weapons. The NPR also emphasised expanding nuclear options to deter and, if necessary, defeat both nuclear and ‘non-nuclear strategic attacks’.

“The renewed focus on the strategic importance of nuclear deterrence and capacity is a very worrying trend,’’ according to Ambassador Jan Eliasson, Chair of the SIPRI Governing Board. The world needs a clear commitment from the nuclear weapon states to an effective, legally binding process towards nuclear disarmament, it said.

The report said that in 2017 North Korea continued to make technical progress in developing its nuclear weapon capabilities, including the test of—what was claimed to be—a thermonuclear weapon, in September. “North Korea also demonstrated unexpected rapid progress in the testing of two new types of long-range ballistic missile delivery systems.”