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Indian security agencies stopped a Karachi-bound ship from China at Mumbai’s Nhava Sheva port suspecting a dual-use consignment that could aid Pakistan’s nuclear and ballistic missile programme, officials said on Saturday, reported PTI.

Ship suspected to contain dual-use consignment for Pak's nuclear programme stopped at Mumbai port(PTI)
Ship suspected to contain dual-use consignment for Pak’s nuclear programme stopped at Mumbai port(PTI)

Customs officials, acting on intelligence input, intercepted the Malta-flagged merchant ship, CMA CGM Attila, en route to Karachi on January 23. The consignment, featuring a Computer Numerical Control (CNC) machine manufactured by an Italian company, was thoroughly inspected during the operation.

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What are CNC machines?

Computer Numerical Control (CNC) machine is a manufacturing device where computer software guides the movement of factory tools and machinery. This technology controls various complex machinery like grinders, lathes, mills, and CNC routers.

CNC machines ensure a level of efficiency, consistency, and accuracy that is unattainable through manual operation.

Concerns about CNC machines in nuclear programmes

Since 1996, CNC machines have been covered by the Wassenaar Arrangement, an international arms control regime aiming to prevent the spread of equipment with both civilian and military applications.

India, one of the 42 member countries, participates in the exchange of information regarding transfers of conventional weapons and dual-use goods and technologies.

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

A team from the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) examined the consignment and verified its potential use in the neighbouring country’s nuclear programme.

Officials said that the seizure aligns with efforts to prevent potential proliferation by Pakistan and China.

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The consignment was coming from China

The consignment, originating from China, detailed the consigner as “Shanghai JXE Global Logistics Co Ltd” and the consignee as “Pakistan Wings Pvt Ltd” in Sialkot, according to documents such as bills of loading. However, a more in-depth probe by security agencies revealed that the 22,180-kilogram consignment was shipped by Taiyuan Mining Import and Export Co Ltd, intended for Cosmos Engineering in Pakistan.

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Cosmos Engineering is already on watchlist

Cosmos Engineering, a Pakistani defence supplier, has been under scrutiny since March 12, 2022, when Indian authorities intercepted a shipment of Italian-made thermoelectric instruments at the Nhava Sheva port.

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Officials expressed concerns about Pakistan potentially using China as a conduit to obtain restricted items from Europe and the US, disguising identities to avoid detection. Worries have heightened over Chinese support for Pakistan’s nuclear and missile programmes, highlighted by a 2020 case involving the concealment of an industrial autoclave, crucial for missile production, as industrial equipment on a Chinese vessel bound for Pakistan.

The ongoing investigation seeks to determine if the suspected Pakistani entities receiving these dual-use items are supplying them to the Defence Science and Technology Organisation (DESTO), responsible for much of Pakistan’s defence research and development.

(Inputs from PTI)

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