India detains Chinese ship with suspected missile launcher parts on way to Karachi in Pakistan

Indian nuclear scientists are inspecting the cargo on the Hong Kong-flagged Da Cui Yun which is now docked in Kandla port in Gujarat in western India

A Chinese cargo ship en route to a Pakistani port was detained by India on suspicion of carrying some "essential" parts for missile launchers. The ship has been docked in the western part of the country since February 3. Customs officials reportedly received an intelligence tip-off about the ship.

Nuclear scientists from the Defense Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) reached Kandla port in Gujarat, India, to inspect the material on Monday.

Indian security and customs agencies found the cargo ship Da Cui Yun carrying material that could be useful in the launch of solid fuel-powered nuclear missiles, according to reports. The vessel registered the material as industrial dryers with around 18 meters in length. Indian authorities believe that the material is not what it is registered to be. The ship was trying to pass on with an autoclave when it was detained by the authorities.

Kandla Port, India
Kandla Port, India Google Maps

Commercial ship with Hong Kong flag

The commercial cargo ship was sailing through the waters close to India and had Hong Kong's flag. The ship left Jiangyin port on January 17 and halted in Kandla before the Indian authorities intercepted it. The ship was headed to the Karachi port which is close to Pakistan's Space and Upper Atmosphere Research Commission.

According to Indian DRDO, the autoclave was used to build a composite lining for solid-fuel ballistic missiles. The customs and national security authorities have been searching the ship since February 8. The nuclear scientists are trying to determine the nature of the suspicious material. If the scientists' results match their suspicion, then the items will be seized.

Sources elaborated to the media that the material which was found had the dimension of 18x4 meters and was actually a pressure chamber that can be used for civilian and military purposes. If the scientists are able to prove that the material is associated with nuclear-based technology, then they could be charged with violation of the Special Chemicals, Organisms, Materials, Equipment and Technologies (Scomet) export rules.

Sanctioned by Americans

The Chinese shipping and logistics company COSCO was sanctioned by the US last year because of which 145,000 tonnes of Indian oil from Mexico was stuck at sea. The US had imposed sanctions on several Chinese companies and their officials for shipping Iranian oil which led to several supertankers going off-limits to western energy traders.

There has reportedly been a spike in suspicious activities off the western coast of India. In December, two military-grade aircraft launching gears landed in a port in Kutch, Gujarat, through Pakistan which sent security officials into a frenzy.

This article was first published on February 18, 2020