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Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW)


Mains   > International relations   >   Agreements   >   Nuclear Doctrine


  • TPNW or Nuke ban treaty came in to force on January 22, 2021. It is the first treaty in history that categorically and permanently prohibits for all its parties the testing, possession, transfer, use, or threat of use of nuclear weapons, and that aims for universal participation.


  • Origin:
    • In 2016, United Nations General Assembly adopted a resolution to negotiate a legally binding instrument to end the use of nuclear weapons.
    • TPNW was first negotiated in March 2017 and adopted in July 2017 with support from 122 countries
    • TPNW got its 50th ratification with Honduras signing it in October 2020, triggering a 90-day period before its entry into force on January 22, 2021.
  • Members
    • At present, 86 member-states have signed the Treaty, and 51 of them have ratified it.
    • US, Russia, China, Britain, France, India, Pakistan, North Korea and Israel (countries possessing nuclear weapons) and NATO alliance did not support it.
  • Basic obligations under the treaty:
    • Complete ban
      • The treaty prohibits States Parties from developing, testing, producing, manufacturing, acquiring, possessing, or stockpiling nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices.
      • Signatories are barred from transferring or receiving nuclear weapons and other nuclear explosive devices, control over such weapons, or any assistance with activities prohibited under the Treaty.
      • States are also prohibited from using or threatening to use nuclear weapons and other nuclear explosive devices.
    • Ban on deployment:
      • States Parties cannot allow the stationing, installation, or deployment of nuclear weapons and other nuclear explosive devices in their territory.
    • Victims assistance:
      • In addition to the Treaty’s prohibitions, States Parties are obligated to provide victim assistance and help with environmental remediation efforts.
  • Verification and compliance
    • The Treaty does not contain a verification regime.
    • Each State Party must maintain its existing safeguards agreements with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
  • Amendments
    • Any State Party may propose an amendment to the Treaty at any time after its entry into force.
    • The amendment may be adopted by an affirmative vote of two-thirds of States Parties.
  • Withdrawal
    • Each State Party has the right to withdraw from the Treaty if it decides that extraordinary events related to the subject matter of the Treaty have jeopardized the supreme interests of its country.


  • The treaty fills a significant gap in international law:
    • While the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) of 1968 seeks to prevents countries from manufacturing nuclear weapons, it doesn’t address the use or possession of such weapons by all parties.
    • TPNW strengthens the provisions of NPT and provides a framework for countries worldwide to eliminate nuclear weapons by closing legal gaps.
  • Victim assistance and remediation:
    • In addition to the Treaty’s prohibitions, States Parties are obligated to provide victim assistance and help with environmental remediation efforts by cleaning up environments contaminated by nuclear testing.
  • Uphold international humanitarian law:
    • The nuclear weapon ban treaty is based on the rules and principles of international humanitarian law, which stipulate that the right of parties to an armed conflict to choose methods and means of warfare is not unlimited, that weapons must be capable of distinguishing between civilians and combatants, and that weapons causing superfluous injury or unnecessary suffering are prohibited
  • Message to nuclear power countries:
    • Creating a global opinion against the acquiring nuclear weapons helps to expose dangerous belief that the possession of nuclear weapons can provide them security, also gives notice to the established nuclear powers that they have lost the moral right to keep nuclear weapons.
  • Nudge to change in behavior:
    • Supporters of the treaty hope that the treaty coming into force will have the same impact as previous international treaties on landmines and cluster munitions, bringing a stigma to their stockpiling and use, and thereby a change in behavior even in countries that did not sign up.
  • Catalyst to young generation:
    • In the era of globalisation of protest movements, the TPNW can act as a catalyst to organise the younger generation of the world in delegitimising nuclear weapons and disassociate themselves from any activities assisting nuclear weapons production.


  • Lack of attention to important areas:
    • Treaty lacks attention on issues of verification and compliance.
    • The treaty exhorts Nuclear Weapon States to join by removing nuclear weapons “from operational status immediately and to destroy them in accordance with a legally binding, time-bound plan…”
    • However, these terminologies are not defined. Nor does the treaty establish who would monitor and certify progress of elimination as per schedule, or how non-compliance would be addressed.
  • Challenge posed by certain rogue states:
    • One major contention was the possession of nuclear weapons with North Korea, and the US argued that while disarmament could be possible in the future, it wasn’t possible at the time the treaty was being discussed.
  • Concern over national security:
    • Countries believes that possession of nuclear weapons can provide them national security >>as it ensures mutually assured destruction >> hence dis-incentives armed conflicts.
  • Non-efficacy:
    • The efficacy of the treaty is questionable because none of the current nine nuclear-armed states including five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council (P5) support the treaty or have signed it.
  • Lack of clarity:
    • Some countries’ arguments for not joining the Treaty are more on technical grounds, as the lack of clarity about the type of nuclear weapons the Treaty covers or how it would relate to other global treaties covering nuclear weapons’ control or proliferation.


  • Not negotiated in the right forum:
    • India believes that the appropriate forum for negotiating complex dimensions of nuclear elimination is the Conference on Disarmament, a UN body comprising 65 nations, that follows consensus-based decision making.
    • India considers it critical to take all stakeholders along on this subject.
  • India found the treaty insufficient to promote comprehensive nuclear disarmament:
    • India said it wasn’t convinced that the resolution could address the longstanding expectation for a comprehensive instrument on nuclear disarmament.


Q. Analyze the relevance of ‘UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons’ in the context of growing geopolitical tensions between major powers

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