Indian Customs officials on February 3 intercepted a ship bearing Hong Kong flag originating from China with Port Qasim in Karachi as destination for wrongly declaring an autoclave, which can be used for launching ballistic missiles as an industrial dryer. The ship is reportedly currently undergoing a detailed inspection at Kandla port in Gujarat.
As per reports, DRDO (Defence Research and Development Organisation) team is currently examining the ship and is also sending a second team of nuclear scientists this week to check the large autoclave onboard. The ship had left Jiangyin Port on Yangtze river in China’s Jiangsu province on January 17, 2020 and was bound for Port Qasim in Karachi, Pakistan when it was intercepted at Kandla port on an intelligence tip off. Port Qasim is in Karachi, Sindh, where Space and Upper Atmosphere Research Commission (Supraco), responsible for Pakistan’s ballistic missile programme is based. If the second team upholds the findings of first, then the Customs will seize the cargo and charge the vessel and its owners for violations of Special Chemicals, Organisms, Materials, Equipment and Technologies (Scomet) export regulations.
As per reports, the DRDO team has inspected the 18×4-metre autoclave. An Autoclave is a pressure chamber which carries out various industrial and scientific processes. Prima facie, it can be used for civilian as well as military purposes. In 1989, Islamabad signed a deal with Beijing to purchase 34 solid fuel M-11 ballistic missiles. The M-11s can deliver 500 kg payload over 300 km area and are at the core of Pakistan’s ballistic missile capability. At around same time, Pakistan had also purchased 12-25 liquid fuel No-Dong ballistic missiles from North Korea. The No-Dong missiles can deliver 700-1000 kg payload over 1000-1300 km area.
Ku Wol San, 1999
In 1999, at the height of Kargil War between India and Pakistan, a North Korean ship Ku Wol San was seized at Kandla port in Gujarat. The Karachi-bound ship had wrongly declared missile components, metal casings and Scud missile manuals as water purification equipments.