EXCLUSIVE: Chinese 'nuclear' cargo bound for Pakistan seized at Mumbai port

The cargo was allegedly meant for Pakistan's nuclear and ballistic missile programmes

Indian defence authorities inspected the heavy cargo and reported their suspicions after which the consignment was seized Indian defence authorities inspected the heavy cargo and reported their suspicions after which the consignment was seized | Sourced image

Indian custom officials have seized a Chinese shipment meant for Pakistan at the Mumbai’s Nhava Sheva port in January, on the suspicion of being a possible dual use consignment which could be used for Pakistan’s nuclear and ballistic missile programme. Indian officials suspect that Pakistan is using China as a conduit to procure dual use and restricted items from Europe and the United States and masking identities to avoid detection.

On January 23, customs officials stopped a Malta-flagged merchant ship, CMA CGM Attila at Nhava Sheva port while it was bound for Karachi.

Port officials have alerted the Indian defence authorities who inspected the heavy cargo and reported their suspicions, after which the consignment was seized. The seizure falls under the prevention of possible proliferation concerns by Pakistan and China, officials told THE WEEK.

Heavy cargo from CMA CGM Attila was seized at Nhava Sheva port | Sourced Heavy cargo from CMA CGM Attila was seized at Nhava Sheva port | Sourced

Top port authorities told THE WEEK that the ship was loaded at Shekou port in China and was carrying CNC machinery, originally manufactured by an Italian firm. CNC means Computer Numerical Control and such machines are basically controlled by a computer and produce a scale of efficiency, consistency and accuracy which is not possible manually.

A red flag was raised by Indian custom officials when they scanned the official documents submitted to port authorities. According to documents like bills of lading and other details of the consignment, the consigner was mentioned as ‘Shanghai JXE Global Logistics Co Ltd” and consignee was ‘Pakistan Wings Pvt Ltd’ of Sialkot.

According to the website of Pakistan Wings, it is a leading sea and air freight consolidator and third party logistics provider. But when Indian officials dug deeper, it was found that the consignment, weighing 22,180 kg, was shipped by Taiyuan Mining Import and Export Co Ltd and it was meant for Cosmos Engineering in Pakistan.

This is not the first instance when Indian port officials have seized such dual use military grade items that were being shipped from China to Pakistan. Cosmos Engineering, which is a Pakistani defence supplier, is on a watch list since March 12, 2022, when Indian authorities had interdicted a shipment of Italian made thermoelectric instruments, once again at Nhava Sheva port.

Indian officials suspect that these thermoelectric instruments were meant for a Pakistani uranium enrichment facility. Indian officials also believe that Pakistan Wings was mentioned as a consignee in a deliberate ploy to hide the name of original consignee, which was Cosmos Engineering.

Indian officials have long suspected that Pakistani military is using services of Pakistan Wings to facilitate shipments of dual use and restricted items from different parts of the world. Such shipments, they said, are noticed coming from China, Italy and Turkey to Pakistani defence entities. They also suspect that Pakistan Wings has close ties with Quantum Logix, a sanctioned entity by the US for acting contrary to the national security interests. It was added to the US’ Department of Commerce’s Export Administration Regulations (EAR) entities list on June 14, 2023.

Indian officials say Chinese support for Pakistan’s nuclear and missile programme is an area of grave concern. Even in February 2020, a consignment of industrial autoclave, a dual use technology that can be used to produce rocket motors for missiles, was seized from a Chinese vessel, Dai Cui Yun, at Kandla port in Gujarat. It was masked as a consignment of industrial drier and was loaded at Jiangyin port in China and was meant for Pakistan’s Port Qasim. It was hidden in the ship’s bottom cargo.

Indian agencies are now examining whether the suspected Pakistani entities receiving the dual use items were further supplying them to Defense Science and Technology Organisation (DESTO), which conducts bulk of the research and development for Pakistan Ministry of Defense Production .

Even though both Pakistan and China claim to be committed to international regimes and conventions, officials say, seizure of such clandestine shipments show that both countries are continuing cooperation in possible proliferation trading violating international commitments.

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