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Nuclear conflict UPSC NOTE

 Possibility of nuclear conflict

  • After every major war or conflict, questions tend to be raised as to whether the ruling elites at the time had failed to see the writing on the wall and, hence, did not prepare for the possibility of a major conflict, or face up to the threat that lay ahead. 

  • Today, as some nations engage in sabre-rattling and hold out the threat not merely of war but also of using the ‘ultimate weapon’, it is important to raise this question yet again. 

  • The truth is, perhaps, hidden between layers of rhetoric that prominent leaders or their spokesmen indulge in from time to time

  • There is, yet, time for nations to sit-up and take notice as also discuss and discern hidden meanings behind the volley of rhetoric being seen.

On France and Russia

  • Many leaders, at least in the West, have taken due note of French President Emmanuel Macron’s so-called ‘apocalyptic vision’ and what the future, hence, looks like. 

  • There is also more than a hint in Mr. Macron’s remarks of the danger of nuclear ‘annihilation’, and unlike many previous outpourings of the French President, many Europeans this time are sitting-up and taking notice. 

  • Russia’s so called ‘mis-adventure’ seems to be the starting point of the French President’s ‘doomsday’ scenario, since he believes that the Ukraine war has changed Russia and that the Russian President Vladimir Putin’s ‘nuclear threats’ should not be ignored

  • As these remarks emanate from one of Europe’s most prominent leaders, the main thrust is on the impact that this would have on European security.

Russia’s revocation of the CTBT

  • In November 2023, Russia had revoked its ratification of a major international agreement, viz., the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) which is intended to prevent all forms of nuclear explosions, either for civilian or military purposes

  • The claim made by Russia, that revoking the ban was intended to balance the nuclear playing field with the United States, (which had never ratified it), is specious at best.

  • The international community’s response to this, not unexpectedly, has been extremely hostile, with several countries expressing concern that this step reversed the shift towards greater confidence in the nuclear arms regime

  • Meantime across the world, countries such as China are going ahead with enhancing their nuclear profile. 

  • China has very recently completed sea trials for its aircraft supercarrier fitted with electromagnetic catapults for launching aircraft. 

  • It is well on its way to complete building a fourth aircraft carrier.

Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) 

  • The CTBT is a multilateral treaty aimed at banning all nuclear explosions, whether for military or peaceful purposes.

  • The roots of the CTBT can be traced back to the Cold War era when the United States and the Soviet Union were engaged in a nuclear arms race, conducting numerous nuclear tests.

  • Between 1945 and 1996, over 2,000 nuclear tests took place globally, with the U.S. conducting 1,032 tests and the Soviet Union conducting 715 tests, among others.

  • In response to concerns about the environmental and health impacts of nuclear tests, the international community made efforts to limit testing.

  • The Limited Nuclear Test-Ban Treaty (LTBT) of 1963 prohibited nuclear testing in the atmosphere, outer space, and underwater but allowed underground tests.

  • The Threshold Test Ban Treaty (TTBT) of 1974 prohibits underground nuclear weapons tests and establishes a nuclear "threshold," yet it falls short of providing a comprehensive ban on all nuclear testing.

  • The CTBT was negotiated at the Conference on Disarmament in Geneva in 1994.

  • In 1996, the United Nations adopted the CTBT, which imposed a complete ban on nuclear weapons testing, closing the gaps left by previous treaties.

  • The CTBT became available for signature in September 1996, signifying a major advancement in the global endeavour to halt nuclear testing across the world.


  • It has been signed by 187 nations and ratified by 178. 

  • However, the treaty cannot formally enter into force until it is ratified by 44 specific nations

  • Eight of these nations have yet to ratify the treaty:

    • China, India, Pakistan, North Korea, Israel, Iran, Egypt, United States.

Nuclear Proliferation Treaty

  • The NPT is an international treaty whose objective is to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons and weapons technology, to foster the peaceful uses of nuclear energy, and to further the goal of disarmament.

  • The treaty was signed in 1968 and entered into force in 1970

  • Presently, it has 191 member states.

  • India is not a member.

  • It requires countries to give up any present or future plans to build nuclear weapons in return for access to peaceful uses of nuclear energy.

  • It represents the only binding commitment in a multilateral treaty to the goal of disarmament by the nuclear-weapon States.

  • Nuclear-weapon states parties under the NPT are defined as those that manufactured and exploded a nuclear weapon or other nuclear explosive devices before 1st January, 1967.

  • India is one of the only five countries that either did not sign the NPT or signed but withdrew later, thus becoming part of a list that includes Pakistan, Israel, North Korea, and South Sudan

India - US deal

  • When India and the U.S. undertook to negotiate a nuclear deal, they stood at opposite poles of the nuclear order. 

  • India had carried out five nuclear tests in 1998, leading to the imposition of sanctions on India’s nuclear programme.

  • Consequent on the U.S.-India nuclear deal, most of the roadblocks that prevented India from joining the global nuclear regime were lifted.

  • In the process, both sides made significant concessions. 

  • India agreed to separate its nuclear programme into civilian and military nuclear programmes, in return for linking permanent safeguards for permanent fuel supplies. 

  • India agreed to adhere to certain of the export control regulations

  • It accepted a voluntary moratorium on nuclear testing

  • The U.S., in turn, amended its domestic laws, and the U.S. Congress made possible the passage of legislative provision through enactment of the Hyde Act and the 123 Agreements

  • The U.S. also took the lead in approaching the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) to ease nuclear restrictions on India. 

  • The U.S. and India thereafter coordinated their efforts to obtain an India Specific Safeguards Agreement from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)

  • This gave India a status similar to that of a nuclear weapon state under the Non Proliferation Treaty

  • From technology denial, India had become a major technology partner of the U.S. 

  • Many of the mental cobwebs that previously existed had been removed and India and the U.S. had achieved a new plateau as far as economic and defence relations were concerned. 

  • India had also become an essential partner of the U.S. on many regional and global issues.

  • The discussions unambiguously seemed to reinforce the view that overcoming the psychological divide was critical to improving relations and relationships between countries.

  • Breaching the impregnable wall of disbelief, leading to a subsequent transformation would inevitably have a beneficial impact

  • From India’s standpoint, given that the India-U.S. nuclear deal originated from India’s desire to obtain high grade uranium from outside to complement its energy requirements, the deal confirms that nuclear energy could be a major resource for peaceful purposes.


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Learnerz IAS | Concept oriented UPSC Classes in Malayalam: Nuclear conflict UPSC NOTE
Nuclear conflict UPSC NOTE
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