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Indian agencies stop Pakistan-bound ship from China, seize cargo linked to nuclear weapons

The ship was halted at Mumbai's Nhava Sheva port on the suspicion that it contained a dual-use consignment for Pakistan's nuclear programme. Defence authorities seized the consignment amid concerns that China is fuelling Pakistan's nuclear and missiles programme.

Aveek Banerjee Edited By: Aveek Banerjee @AveekABanerjee Mumbai Updated on: March 02, 2024 17:21 IST
Mumbai, China, ship, Pakistan, nuclear programme
Image Source : PTI A container onboard a Karachi-bound ship from China stopped at Mumbai

Mumbai: A ship en route to Pakistan's Karachi from China has been stopped by Indian security agencies at Mumbai's Nhava Sheva port on the suspicion that it contained a dual-use consignment that could be used for Pakistan's nuclear and ballistic missiles programme, officials said on Saturday. Based on an intelligence input, the customs officials halted a Malta-flagged merchant ship - CMA CGM Attila - that was bound for Karachi.

Officials said there was a Computer Numerical Control (CNC) on that ship, originally manufactured by an Italian company. CNC machines are basically controlled by a computer and fall under the Wassenaar Arrangement, an international arms control regime aimed at curbing the spread of items with dual civilian and military applications, in which India is an active participant.

A Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) team also inspected the consignment and certified that it could be used by the neighbouring country for its nuclear programme. The equipment is said to provide assistance in manufacturing critical parts for Pakistan's missile programme. 

India seizes cargo linked to Pakistan's nuclear programme

After the ship was halted, the Mumbai port officials alerted the Indian defence authorities, who inspected the heavy cargo and reported their suspicions. After this, the consignment was seized and the seizure fell under the prevention of possible proliferation by Pakistan and China, said officials.

Documents such as bills of loading and other details of the consignment showed the consigner was mentioned as "Shanghai JXE Global Logistics Co Ltd" and the consignee was "Pakistan Wings Pvt Ltd" of Sialkot. A deeper investigation by the security agencies indicated that the consignment, weighing 22,180 kg, was shipped by Taiyuan Mining Import and Export Co Ltd and meant for Cosmos Engineering in Pakistan, the officials said.

Notably, 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.

China's support to Pakistan's nuclear programme

There have been widespread concerns that China is assisting Pakistan's nuclear programme, since Beijing reportedly provided an industrial autoclave, crucial for missile production, to Islamabad by concealing it as industrial equipment on a Chinese vessel in 2020. The autoclave was seized from a Chinese ship -- Dai Cui Yun -- that carried a Hong Kong flag and had left Jiangyin port on the Yangtze River in Jiangsu province of China, bound for Pakistan's Port Qasim.

The seizure of the autoclave also strengthened apprehensions that Pakistan is unabashedly indulging in the illegal trade of missiles and violating the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR). Three Chinese companies were sanctioned by the US in July last year for their involvement in supplying missile-applicable items to Pakistan's ballistic missile programme.

How is China supplying equipment to Pakistan?

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

The officials further pointed out that China's assistance to Pakistan is being provided by either supplying sensitive materials of proliferation concerned clandestinely or acting as a conduit in facilitating the country to procure dual-use equipment or military-grade items from other countries like the US or Europe.

China has constructed four 300 MWe nuclear power plants in Chashma and two 1,000 MWe plants in Karachi, violating Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) guidelines. China has plans to construct another 1,000 MWe nuclear power plant in Chashma, they added.

(with inputs from PTI)

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