HomeTechSecurity agencies seize consignment meant for Pakistan's nuclear prog at Mumbai port

Security agencies seize consignment meant for Pakistan’s nuclear prog at Mumbai port

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Security agencies at Mumbai’s Nhava Sheva port intercepted and seized the consignment of a Karachi-bound ship from China after it was found carrying a dual-use consignment with implications for Pakistan‘s nuclear and ballistic missile programmes, officials said on Saturday. Customs officials, acting on intelligence, halted the Malta-flagged merchant ship — CMA CGM Attila — en route to Karachi on January 23 and, during its inspection, found that the consignment had a Computer Numerical Control (CNC) machine, manufactured by an Italian company, known for its precision and efficiency controlled by a computer system.
A Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) team examined the consignment and confirmed its potential usage in Pakistan’s nuclear initiatives, notably in manufacturing crucial components for missile development, the officials said.

CNC machines 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. The CNC machine was used by North Korea in its nuclear programme.

Further investigations showed many discrepancies in the shipping details, indicating potential evasion tactics to conceal the true recipients. This incident follows past seizures of dual-use military-grade items being transhipped from China to Pakistan, raising concerns over illicit procurement activities.

The ongoing probe aims to ascertain if the suspected Pakistani entities receiving these items are linked to the Defence Science and Technology Organisation (DESTO), responsible for Pakistan’s defence research and development.

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 and added 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 the consignee as “Pakistan Wings Pvt Ltd” of Sialkot.However, further investigation by the security agencies indicated that the consignment, weighing 22,180 kilogrammes, was shipped by Taiyuan Mining Import and Export Co Ltd and meant for Cosmos Engineering in Pakistan, the officials said.

This is not the first instance that 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.

Despite international conventions, the interception highlights persistent cooperation between Pakistan and China in activities that contravene global agreements, raising alarms about potential proliferation activities.

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

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, possibly meant to be used in the missile programme of Pakistan, strengthened apprehensions that Pakistan is unabashedly indulging in illegal trade of missiles and violating the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR).

The cooperation between China and Pakistan in acquiring sensitive items and equipment, coupled with China’s support in constructing nuclear power plants for Pakistan, has drawn scrutiny from international bodies, challenging established guidelines and control regimes.

The officials said China’s assistance to Pakistan has come in two ways — supplying sensitive materials or equipment of proliferation concern clandestinely and acting as a conduit in facilitating the country to procure dual-use military-grade items from overseas, especially Europe and the US.

Additionally, China has assisted Pakistan in constructing civil nuclear power plants. 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 said.

The recent sanctions imposed by the US Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) on Chinese companies involved in supplying missile-relevant items to Pakistan highlight the gravity of the situation and the necessity for heightened oversight in curbing potential proliferation activities.

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