HomeTechChinese dual-use cargo heading to Pakistan seized

Chinese dual-use cargo heading to Pakistan seized

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The consignment was shipped on January 9 on a merchant vessel CMA CGM Attila, a Malta-flagged vessel from Shekou Port in China, and was heading to Karachi Port. Photo: Special Arrangement

In the latest seizure of dual-use items being shipped from China that could be used in Pakistan’s nuclear weapons programme, two advanced Computer Numerical Control (CNC) machines manufactured by GKD, Italy and bound for the port of Karachi were seized by Indian customs at Mumbai Port in January. They continue to remain in Indian custody, according to sources in the security establishment.

The consignment was shipped on January 9 on a merchant vessel CMA CGM Attila, a Malta-flagged vessel from Shekou Port in China, and was heading to Karachi Port with Cosmos Engineering being the consignee, a source said. “During its voyage, the vessel reached Nhava Sheva Port (JNPT) Mumbai on January 22, 2024 and the consignment was seized by Indian customs officials based on intelligence inputs on possible proliferation concerns by Pakistan and China,” the source said.

The equipment would be useful in manufacturing critical parts for Pakistan’s missile development programme, another source with knowledge of the matter said. The consignment has been inspected by a team of experts from the Defence Research and Development Organisation, it is learnt.

Customs watchlist

On the condition of anonymity, Customs officials confirmed that Cosmos Engineering had been on their watchlist since March 2022, when Pakistan was trying to procure ‘thermo-electric instruments’ from an Italian firm, with Cosmos Engineering being the consignee. The same was intercepted at Nhava Sheva Port on March 12, 2022, under the policy to prevent proliferation activities through Indian ports.

Earlier, in February 2020, China was attempting to supply an autoclave to Pakistan under the cover of an ‘industrial dryer’, which was seized from a Hong Kong-flagged Chinese ship named Dai Cui Yun which left Jiangyin port on the Yangtze river in China’s Jiangsu province, and was headed to Pakistan’s Port Qasim. The seizure of the autoclave, which could be used in Pakistan’s missile programme, strengthened apprehensions that Pakistan is continuing the illegal trade of missiles and violating the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR), the first source stated.

The autoclave, which was mis-declared as an ‘industrial dryer’, is notified in the SCOMET (Special Chemicals, Organisms, Materials, Equipment and Technologies) list and was found concealed in the bottom of the cargo of the ship, as it transited through Gujarat’s Kandla port

U.S. sanctions

In June 2023, the U.S. Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) sanctioned three Chinese companies — General Technology Limited (which had supplied the autoclave), Beijing Luo Luo Technology Development, and Changzhou Utek Composite — for their involvement in supplying missile-related items to Pakistan’s ballistic missile programme. The U.S. State Department had said the sanctions were imposed as part of the global non-proliferation regime.

China has also been assisting Pakistan in the construction of civil nuclear power plants, including four 300 MWe nuclear power plants at Chashma, and two 1,000 MWe plants in Karachi. Last year, Pakistan’s Atomic Energy Commission and China’s National Nuclear Corporation signed a memorandum of understanding to build a 1.2 GW nuclear power plant, at an estimated cost of $4.8 billion.

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