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Global Nuclear Order (GNO) is under strain

GS Paper 2

 Syllabus: Geopolitics, Multilateralism


Source: TH

 Context: The global nuclear order (GNO), established during the Cold War, faces significant challenges.


What is the global nuclear order (GNO)?

The global nuclear order (GNO) refers to the established framework, rules, and agreements governing the use and proliferation of nuclear weapons on a global scale.

E.g., the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) aims to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons and promote disarmament.


Key Components of the Global Nuclear Order:

Key ComponentsDescription
Non-ProliferationEfforts to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons to additional states.
DisarmamentInitiatives aimed at reducing and ultimately eliminating nuclear arsenals globally.
Nuclear Material SecurityMeasures to safeguard nuclear materials, facilities, and technologies from theft, sabotage, or unauthorized access.
Peaceful Use of Nuclear EnergyPromotion of nuclear technology for peaceful purposes such as electricity generation, medicine, agriculture, and industry.
International Agreements and TreatiesFrameworks like the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT), and others establish norms, regulations, and obligations related to nuclear activities.
International Organizations and AgenciesBodies like the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) oversee nuclear activities, and inspections, and promote nuclear safety and security worldwide.


Out of these, three important treaties for GNO are:


Global Nuclear Order (GNO) Significance:

  1. Preventing Proliferation: Preventing widespread possession.
  2. Ensuring Stability: Arms control negotiations achieved strategic parity, fostering stability in the arms race and crisis management since 1945


Current status of GNO: 

As per the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI)

  1. Nine nuclear-armed states, including prominent players like the United States, Russia, and China, are actively engaged in the modernization and expansion of their nuclear arsenals.
  2. Total global inventory: It is approximately 12,512 warheads, with a significant portion, around 9,576, held in military stockpiles for potential use.
  3. Dominance in nuclear capabilities: It remains concentrated in Russia and the United States, which collectively possess nearly 90% of all nuclear weapons


Issues/concerns with Current GNO:

Shift from Bipolarity to MultipolarityThe rise of China introduces a new dynamic in nuclear relations, shifting from the previous bipolar order.
Changes in the U.S.-Russia TreatiesWithdrawals from key treaties like ABM and INF, along with uncertainties surrounding the New START Treaty.
New Nuclear Peer RivalsThe U.S. facing two nuclear peer rivals (Russia and China), with added uncertainties arising from the Ukraine war.
Shifts in TechnologyEvolving nuclear technology and instances of biased dealings, such as the AUKUS deal with Australia, raise concerns in the NPT community.
Changing PerspectiveShifts in the nuclear perspectives of nations like South Korea and Japan, with considerations for national nuclear deterrents.
Arms ControlChallenges in implementing existing agreements like NPT and lack of progress in disarmament efforts.
Modernization and TechnologyOngoing modernization of nuclear arsenals, including advanced and potentially destabilizing technologies.
Emerging Threats and ActorsRisks associated with non-state actors or rogue states acquiring nuclear materials or technology.


India’s Position on the Global Nuclear Order: 

  1. Nuclear Disarmament: India supports complete disarmament within a specified timeframe
  2. The doctrine of ‘No First Use’ (NFU) of nuclear weapons: The doctrine was formally adopted in January 2003, and says that nuclear weapons will only be used in retaliation against a nuclear attack on Indian territory or on Indian forces anywhere
    1. Last year, the Indian Defence Minister said that the ‘no first use nuclear policy’ of India may change in the future.
  3. Advocate for Global Disarmament: India advocates for global nuclear disarmament while seeking recognition as a responsible nuclear power.
  4. Non-Signatory to NPT and CTBT: India distinguishes itself by not being a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and CTBT, as it deems them discriminatory
    1. India’s non-signatory status to the NPT creates complexities in its relationship with the global nuclear order, having developed its nuclear program independently.
  5. Nuclear Arsenal Expansion: India’s ongoing expansion and modernization of its nuclear arsenal raise concerns about regional stability, especially given tensions with Pakistan and the strategic rivalry with China.
  6. Relations with Pakistan: The nuclear dynamics between India and Pakistan pose challenges
  7. China Factor: India’s nuclear policy is influenced by its relations with China, and as China modernizes its nuclear capabilities, India might feel compelled to bolster its arsenal


Way forward:

Creating a just, safe, and improved Global Nuclear Order requires a comprehensive approach integrating diplomacy, technology, governance, and international cooperation. Key steps include:

  1. Encouraging disarmament through significant and verifiable reductions in nuclear arsenals
  2. Strengthening non-proliferation efforts
  3. Fostering inclusive dialogue among all stakeholders
  4. Monitoring emerging technologies for potential risks
  5. Supporting new treaties like the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) while engaging nuclear-armed states in discussions for a nuclear-free world.
  6. India: India must focus on maintaining stability in its region, engaging in dialogue with Pakistan and China, and ensuring the safe and responsible management of its nuclear arsenal.



The legitimacy of any global nuclear order hinges on two vital conditions: achieving convergence among major powers and effectively portraying the outcomes as a global public good for the rest of the world. These conditions underscore the necessity for collaboration, transparency, and shared responsibility in shaping a stable and just global nuclear order.


Insta links:


Prelims Links:

Consider the following countries: (UPSC 2015)

  1. China
  2. France
  3. India
  4. Israel
  5. Pakistan


Which among the above are Nuclear Weapons States as recognized by the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, commonly known as the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT)? 


(a) 1 and 2 only

(b) 1, 3, 4 and 5 only

(c) 2, 4 and 5 only

(d) 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5


Ans: (a)