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Indian security agencies stopped a Pakistan-bound ship from China at Mumbai’s Nhava Sheva port over the suspicion that it contained a dual-use consignment that could be used for Pakistan’s nuclear and ballistic missiles programme, officials told news agency PTI on Saturday.

As per the report, the customs officials halted a Malta-flagged merchant ship — CMA CGM Attila — at the port on January 23. The ship was en route to Karachi in Pakistan. The action was taken based on an intelligence input.

The officials inspected the consignment, which included a Computer Numerical Control (CNC) machine, originally manufactured by an Italian company. 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 report said.

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The port officials had alerted the Indian defence authorities who inspected the heavy cargo and reported their suspicions. After this, the consignment was seized, the officials were quoted as saying. They said the seizure falls under the “prevention of possible proliferation by Pakistan and China”.

In documents such as bills of loading and other details of the consignment purportedly, that the consigner was mentioned as “Shanghai JXE Global Logistics Co Ltd” and the consignee was “Pakistan Wings Pvt Ltd” of Sialkot. The consignment weighed 22,180 kilogrammes.

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However, “an investigation by the security agencies suggested that the consignment was shipped by Taiyuan Mining Import and Export Co Ltd and meant for Cosmos Engineering (a Pakistani defence supplier) in Pakistan,” the officials told PTI.

Not the first time

This is not the first instance when Indian port officials have seized such dual-use military-grade items being shipped from China to Pakistan. 

According to PTI, Cosmos Engineering 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.

In February 2020, China was supplying autoclave to Pakistan under the cover of “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 autoclave was possibly meant to be used in the missile programme of Pakistan. It’s seizure strengthened apprehensions that Pakistan is unabashedly indulging in illegal trade of missiles and violating the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR).

ALSO READ: ‘Proof of great friendship’: China to send Pakistan another $1.3 billion

Concerns over China’s support for Pak’s nuclear programmes

Concerns have intensified over China’s support for Pakistan’s nuclear and missile programmes. 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.

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

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, the news agency said.

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 anothet 1,000 MWe nuclear power plant in Chashma, they said.

What are Computer Numerical Control (CNC) machines?

These CNC machines are controlled by a computer and produce a scale of efficiency, consistency and accuracy not possible manually. Experts said the equipment would be useful in manufacturing critical parts for Pakistan’s missile development programme. North Korea had used the CNC machine in its nuclear programme.

(With inputs from PTI)

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Published: 02 Mar 2024, 04:36 PM IST

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