India intercepts suspected dual-use shipment bound for Pakistan

The vessel, originating from China’s Shekou port, was flagged by Malta and had “Pakistan Wings Pvt Ltd” in Sialkot listed as the consignee.

| Updated: 03 March, 2024 5:52 pm IST
India seizes suspected dual-use consignment for Pakistan's nuclear program

NEW DELHI: In a significant development, Indian security agencies intercepted and detained a Karachi-bound ship, the CMA CGM Attila, at Mumbai’s Nhava Sheva port on suspicions of carrying a dual-use consignment potentially intended for Pakistan’s nuclear and ballistic missile program.

The consignment, which included a Computer Numerical Control (CNC) machine manufactured by an Italian company, raised concerns among officials about its application in Pakistan’s defence initiatives. The vessel, originating from China’s Shekou port, was flagged by Malta and had “Pakistan Wings Pvt Ltd” in Sialkot listed as the consignee.

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However, further investigation revealed that the consignment, weighing over 22,000 kg, was shipped by “Taiyuan Mining Import and Export Co Ltd” and intended for “Cosmos Engineering” in Pakistan. The CNC machine, subject to the Wassenaar Arrangement, is controlled internationally to curb the proliferation of items with dual civilian and military applications.

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. North Korea used the CNC machine in its nuclear programme. Indian officials, who received specific intelligence about the dual-use consignment, discovered discrepancies in shipping details, raising suspicions of potential evasion tactics to conceal the true recipients. This incident adds to the ongoing concerns about illegal procurement, with past seizures indicating the transhipment of dual-use military-grade items from China to Pakistan.

In June 2023, the US Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) sanctioned three Chinese companies for being involved in supplying missile-applicable items to Pakistan’s ballistic missile programme. General Technology Limited (autoclave supplier to Pakistan), Beijing Luo Luo Technology Development, and Changzhou Utek Composite Company were sanctioned companies.

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This development also highlights the delicate balance between ensuring adherence to international arms control regimes and addressing the security implications of potential misuse of such consignments. As the investigation progresses, the focus is on determining the connection between the suspected Pakistani entities and the Defence Science and Technology Organisation (DESTO), responsible for Pakistan’s defence research and development.

In a previous incident in February 2020, Indian port authorities intercepted dual-use military-grade items from China to Pakistan, disguising an autoclave as an “industrial dryer.” The seizure has prompted a strong response from Pakistan, with the Foreign Office condemning it as an “unjustified seizure” and a violation of international norms. The statement accuses India of high-handedness and arbitrary measures, emphasising the dangers of assuming policing roles by states.

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