New Delhi: A Chinese ship that was detained at Gujarat’s Kandla Port earlier this month for carrying suspected cargo to Pakistan has been allowed to leave. But the equipment on board has been held back for further investigations.
Security sources said the vessel, named Da Cui Yun, was allowed to go after the crew members signed a bond saying they will be available for questioning if needed by the probe agencies.
The Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI) is the lead agency probing the mysterious cargo. Central security agencies as well as the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) are also investigating the matter.
Sources said the decision to release the ship was taken at the “top level”.
The ship, bearing a Hong Kong flag and bound for Karachi’s Port Qasim, was detained for “wrongly declaring” an autoclave, which can be used in the launch process of ballistic missiles, as an industrial dryer, the Hindustan Times had reported.
The development came amid continued fears of nuclear proliferation in the region, especially Pakistan’s nuclear programme.
How the ship was caught
The ship had left Jiangyin port in China’s Jiangsu province, dropped anchor at Kandla to drop off some items, and was bound for Port Qasim. However, an intelligence input was received by the Research and Analysis Wing (RAW), saying the ship was carrying a dual-use technology item.
A team of DRDO scientists was sent in, and it came to the prima facie conclusion that the item was not a dryer but an autoclave — a pressure chamber to carry out various industrial and scientific processes.
It has been certified as a “dual-use” item, which means it can be used for civilian and military purposes.
If it is indeed proved that the ship had mis-declared a dual-use technology item, the government could invoke the Weapons of Mass Destruction and Their Delivery Systems (Prohibition of Unlawful Activities) Act, 2005.
The owner of the ship and the captain could also be charged for violating the Special Chemicals, Organisms, Materials, Equipment and Technologies (SCOMET) export rules.
Tara Kartha, former director, National Security Council Secretariat, wrote in ThePrint that the seizure shows India has made great progress when it comes to tracking ships with the use of technologies like the Automatic Identification Systems, which operates in partnership with 29 countries. This involves exchange of information on the safety and movement of commercial shipping.
It also includes the setting up of coastal radars in Sri Lanka, the Maldives and Seychelles. This increased maritime domain awareness is vital in terms of the US-India ‘Indo-Pacific’ construct when dealing with diverse common threats in the region.