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Thursday, April 25 2024
Maharastra

Chinese Ship Halted at Mumbai Port Over Suspected Nuclear Cargo

Mumbai
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On Saturday, officials in Mumbai announced that Indian security agencies had stopped a ship from China that was headed for Karachi. The reason for the stop was suspected to be a dual-use consignment that could be used for Pakistan’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs.

On January 23, customs officers stopped the Malta-flagged merchant ship CMA CGM Attila at the port while it was sailing to Karachi. Based on information provided by the intelligence services, they examined the shipment, which included a CNC machine that was initially produced by an Italian company.

CNC machines generate at a level of efficiency, consistency, and accuracy that is not achievable with manual control because they are essentially computer controlled.

After inspecting the shipment, a team from the Defense Research and Development Organization (DRDO) verified that it could be utilized by the neighboring nation for its nuclear program.

The experts claim that the machinery would be helpful in producing vital components for Pakistan’s missile development program.

The Wassenaar Arrangement, an international arms control regime intended to halt the proliferation of equipment with both civilian and military uses, has included CNC machines since 1996. India is one of the 42 members that exchanges data about the transfer of dual-use goods and technologies, as well as conventional weapons.

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 loading 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.

The consignment, which weighed 22,180 kilogrammes, was shipped by Taiyuan Mining Import and Export Co Ltd and was intended for Cosmos Engineering in Pakistan, according to a more thorough investigation by the security agencies, the officials said.

Such dual-use military-grade goods have previously been intercepted by Indian port authorities while being transported from China to Pakistan.

Pakistani defense supplier Cosmos Engineering has been placed under watch since March 12, 2022, when Indian authorities once again intercepted a shipment of thermoelectric instruments made in Italy at the port of Nhava Sheva.

According to the officials, there have been worries that Pakistan may be using China as a cover to purchase prohibited goods from the US and Europe while disguising its identity to avoid 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 (DESTO), 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.

In February 2020, China was supplying autoclave to Pakistan under the cover of “industrial dryer”.

The autoclave was taken from the Chinese vessel Dai Cui Yun, which was sailing under the flag of Hong Kong and had left Jiangyin port on the Yangtze River in the Jiangsu province of China on its way to Port Qasim in Pakistan.

The autoclave was seized, potentially with the intention of using it for Pakistan’s missile program. This adds credence to concerns that Pakistan is openly engaging in the illicit trade in missiles and breaking the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR).

Three Chinese companies were sanctioned in June 2023 by the US Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) for their involvement in supplying missile-applicable items to Pakistan’s ballistic missile program: Changzhou Utek Composite Company, Beijing Luo Luo Technology Development, and General Technology Limited, which supplies autoclaves to Pakistan.

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