• Saturday, April 20, 2024

HEADLINE STORY

India officials stop ship suspected to contain consignment for Pakistan nuclear programme

The vessel was heading to Pakistan’s Karachi port from China.

(iStock)

By: Shubham Ghosh

A SHIP heading from China to Pakistan’s Karachi port was stopped in January by Indian security agencies at Nhava Sheva port in the western city of Mumbai on grounds of suspicion that it contained a dual-use consignment that could be used for Islamabad’s nuclear and ballistic missile programmes, officials in Mumbai said on Saturday (2).

The customs officials, based on an intelligence input, halted a Malta-flagged merchant ship — CMA CGM Attila — at the port en route to Karachi on January 23 and inspected the consignment, which included a Computer Numerical Control (CNC) machine, originally manufactured by an Italian company.

CNC machines are controlled by a computer and produce a scale of efficiency, consistency and accuracy not possible manually.

India officials stop consignment meant for Pakistan's nuclear programme in Mumbai
A combination of photos shows bills of lading and a container onboard a Karachi-bound ship from China. The ship was stopped by Indian security agencies at Mumbai’s Nhava Sheva port on suspicion that it contained a dual-use consignment that could be used for Pakistan’s nuclear and ballistic missile programme. (PTI Photo)

A team of India’s Defence Research and Development Organisation also inspected the consignment and certified that it could be used by the neighbouring country for its nuclear programme.

According to the experts, the equipment would be useful in manufacturing critical parts for Pakistan’s missile development programme.

Since 1996, CNC machines have been included in the Wassenaar Arrangement — an international arms control regime aimed at stopping the proliferation of equipment with both civilian and military uses. India is among the 42 member countries that exchange information on transfers of conventional weapons and dual-use goods and technologies.

The CNC machine was used by North Korea in its nuclear programme. The port officials, with specific intelligence, had alerted the Indian defence authorities who inspected the heavy cargo and reported their suspicions, after which the consignment was seized, the officials said, adding that the seizure falls under the prevention of possible proliferation by Pakistan and China.

According to documents such as bills of lading and other details of the consignment, the consigner was mentioned as

“Shanghai JXE Global Logistics Co Ltd” and consignee was “Pakistan Wings Pvt Ltd” of Sialkot.

However, a deeper investigation by the security agencies indicated that the consignment, weighing 22,180 kilogrammes, was shipped by Taiyuan Mining Import and Export Co Ltd and was meant for Cosmos Engineering in Pakistan, the officials said. This is not the first instance when Indian port officials have seized such dual-use military-grade items being shipped from China to Pakistan.

Cosmos Engineering, a Pakistani defence supplier, has been on a watchlist since March 12, 2022, when Indian authorities intercepted a shipment of Italian-made thermoelectric instruments, once again at the Nhava Sheva port. The officials said there have been concerns that Pakistan might be utilising China as a conduit to acquire restricted items from Europe and the US, masking identities to evade detection.

Concerns have intensified over Chinese support for Pakistan’s nuclear and missile programmes, exemplified by a 2020 case where an industrial autoclave, crucial for missile production, was concealed as industrial equipment on a Chinese vessel bound for Pakistan.

The ongoing investigation aims to determine if the suspected Pakistani entities receiving these dual-use items are supplying these to the Defence Science and Technology Organisation, responsible for much of Pakistan’s defence research and development. Despite assertions of commitment to international conventions by both Pakistan and China, the interception of such covert shipments underscores a persistent cooperation in potential proliferation activities, contravening global agreements and regulations, the officials said.

(With PTI inputs)

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