The 5-Minute Briefing: India's nuclear weapons programme

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The Independent Online

Why did India develop a nuclear weapon?

Why did India develop a nuclear weapon?

It felt threatened by nuclear neighbour China, and by Pakistan's development of a nuclear bomb. India and Pakistan carried out tit-for-tat tests in 1998 that were condemned internationally and sparked fears of a regional arms race. India's emergence as a nuclear power enabled it for the first time to face off with China, and become a second Asian power. Conversely, Pakistan's acquisition of nuclear weapons allowed it to stand up to India's larger army.

How powerful is India militarily?

India has the second largest army in the world, with more than a million troops, and the fifth largest navy. It has more troops on active duty in Kashmir - more than 200,000 - than the total strength of the British Army. The fact that China has the world's largest army shows how militarised Asia has become. For decades, India built up its military because of its rivalry with Pakistan, but kept a low profile in relation to its more dangerous rival, China.

How are India's relations with Pakistan?

Better than they have been for decades. There are signs of progress in peace talks, only three years after they nearly started the world's first nuclear war over Kashmir. A cricket match was used as an excuse to engineer a summit between Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, left, in Delhi. There have been substantive results, with the first bus link between Indian and Pakistani Kashmir.

What about relations with China?

Also the best they have been for decades. Although it has received less attention, there has also been a quiet détente between India and China in recent years, which culminated in an agreement to resolve all their border disputes in the Himalayas - over which they went to war in 1962. The improvement in relations is largely the result of economics: the world's two fastest-growing economies want to make more of each other as lucrative trading partners, and the Chinese President Wen Jiabao says the two countries have set a target of $30bn for annual trade by 2010.

Why is India demanding a permanent seat on the UN Security Council?

As it emerges as an economic power, India wants to be recognised as a political power as well, both regionally and globally. There has been talk of reforming the council to reflect new geopolitical realities, with Germany, Japan, Brazil and India pushing for permanent seats. India wants one as the second power in Asia, after China, because of its nuclear armaments, its economic clout, and its sheer population size. But it faces predictable opposition from Pakistan.

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