London: Eight of the world`s nuclear powers together possessed nearly 19,000 atomic weapons with India and Pakistan expanding their capacities to produce fissile material for military purposes, a prominent Swedish think tank claimed on Monday.
World military spending failed to rise last year for the first time since 1998 in a major shift from the international trend, findings of this years` Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) Yearbook said.
World military expenditure in 2011 was essentially flat at USD 1.73 trillion, an increase of just 0.3 per cent from 2010 -- representing 2.5 per cent of global gross domestic product or USD 249 per person, the report said.
"India and Pakistan continue to develop new systems capable of delivering nuclear weapons and are expanding their capacities to produce fissile material for military purposes," it said.
"The eight nuclear states --the US, Russia, the UK, France, China, India, Pakistan and Israel-- together possess a total of approximately 19,000 nuclear weapons, as compared with 20,530 at the beginning of 2011," it pointed out.
At the same time, all five legally recognised nuclear weapon states - China, France, Russia, the UK and the US are either deploying new nuclear weapon delivery systems or have announced programmes to do so, it added.
They appear determined to retain their nuclear arsenals indefinitely.
While the eight nuclear states possessed approximately 4400 operational nuclear weapons at the start of 2012, nearly 2000 of these are kept in a state of high operational alert, the SIPRI report cautioned.
The SIPRI yearbook 2012 assesses the current state of international security, armaments and disarmament.
SIPRI is an independent international institute dedicated to research into conflict, armaments, arms control and disarmament.