Indian Security Agencies Intercept Pakistan-Bound Ship from China Carrying ‘Military-Grade Items’

Indian security agencies have intercepted a Pakistan-bound ship from China at Mumbai’s Nhava Sheva port over suspicions of a ‘dual-use consignment’ intended for Pakistan’s nuclear and ballistic missile program. Among the items seized was a Computer Numerical Control (CNC) machine manufactured by an Italian company. A team from the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) also inspected the consignment.

The interception took place based on intelligence input, leading customs officials to halt the Malta-flagged merchant ship, CMA CGM Attila, en route to Karachi on January 23 at the port. The consignment, including the CNC machine, underwent scrutiny by DRDO, which certified its potential use in manufacturing critical parts for Pakistan’s missile development program.

There have been concerns regarding Pakistan’s potential exploitation of China as a conduit to acquire restricted items from Europe and the US while masking identities to evade detection.

Documents such as bills of loading indicated the consigner as “Shanghai JXE Global Logistics Co Ltd” and the consignee as “Pakistan Wings Pvt Ltd” of Sialkot. However, further investigation revealed that the 22,180-kilogram consignment was shipped by Taiyuan Mining Import and Export Co Ltd, intended for Cosmos Engineering in Pakistan.

Port officials, acting on specific intelligence, alerted Indian defence authorities, leading to the inspection and subsequent seizure of the cargo. This seizure falls within the purview of preventing potential proliferation by Pakistan and China.

CNC machines, operated by computers, offer enhanced efficiency, consistency, and accuracy, making them valuable assets with applications in both civilian and military domains. Since 1996, CNC machines have been included in the Wassenaar Arrangement—an international arms control regime aimed at curbing the proliferation of equipment with dual civilian and military uses. India, among the 42 member countries, actively participates in exchanging information on transfers of conventional weapons and dual-use goods and technologies.

And therefore, Indian port officials have previously seized similar dual-use military-grade items being shipped from China to Pakistan. In February 2020, China attempted to supply an autoclave to Pakistan under the guise of an “industrial dryer.”

Moreover, 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, once again at the Nhava Sheva port.

Furthermore, in June 2023, the US Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) imposed sanctions on three Chinese companies—General Technology Limited (autoclave supplier to Pakistan), Beijing Luo Luo Technology Development, and Changzhou Utek Composite Company—for their involvement in supplying missile-applicable items to Pakistan’s ballistic missile programme.