The recently released report titled the “Smuggling In India Report 2019-20” by the Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI) revealed that the Customs and domain experts recently carried out two crucial seizures of items possibly linked to missiles. The first seizure was of a consignment of chemical, which was possibly a dual-use chemical–the one that could be used as a propellant in missiles.
The second seizure was a more significant one, as an auto-clave was seized at Kandla port that was routed towards Pakistan’s Port Qasim. The autoclave was seized from a Chinese ship named Dai Cui Yun, carried a Hong Kong flag and had left Jiangyin port on Yangtze River in Jiangsu province of China bound for Pakistan’s Port Qasim.
“The seizure of the auto-clave, possibly meant to be used in the missile programme of Pakistan, strengthens the apprehensions that Pakistan is unabashedly indulging in the illegal trade of missiles and violating the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR). “ A senior security official told Zee News.
The malevolent intentions of Pakistan can be understood from the fact that the auto-clave, which was misdeclared as an industrial dryer, is notified in the SCOMET list and was found concealed in the bottom cargo of the ship transiting through Kandla.
“On investigations, DRDO scientists had found that the seized autoclave is used to produce the ‘composite lining’ for the ‘solid-fuel ballistic missiles’- the technology on which Shaheen series missiles function,” said a highly placed source revealed to Zee News.
On January 20, 2021, the ISPR released a statement on conducting a test of Shaheen-iii missile, directed at “revalidating various design and tech parameters of weapon system’. Given the fact that Pakistan is entirely dependent on China for its missile programme and almost every Pakistani missile is based on Chinese technology, experts observe Shaheen-III to be based on the design of Chinese missile DF-21A.
The Pakistani missile also uses WS$51200 ‘Transporter Erector Launcher’, which is manufactured in China by the Wanshan Special Vehicle. Proliferation experts argued that the auto-clave seized at Kandla was meant for similar missile programmes. However, the trend is not new, and the seizure was just a meagre part of the larger traffic emerging from the proliferation trading between Pakistan and China.
It was also reported in October 2020 that China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) and Pakistan Army are working on the speedy installation of a surface-to-air missile system near Lasadanna Dhok in Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK). Reports revealed that besides ten personnel of the PLA, Pakistan Army personnel along with 25-40 staffers are involved in the construction. China is also helping Pakistan to gain a strategic edge over India by assisting in the construction of a similar installation at Chinari in Jhelum district and Chakothi in the Hattian Bala district of PoK.
Anadolu Agency also brought to light that a high-tech anti-ship Chinese missile was going to be inducted into the Pakistani Navy this year. Analysts revealed that the missile — the CM-302 could travel with three times the speed of sound, could be a major weapon for the ‘Type 054’navy ship that China is developing for Pakistan.
Though the business of proliferation is not a novel start-up by a couple of countries, it has started booming in the past couple of years as the Pakistan-Turkey alliance has entered into the business of proliferation with China-North Korea coalition, making a group of four traders, who have now established hegemony in the clandestine missile market. Experts have highlighted that Pakistan’s intelligence agency ISI has acted as the force to constitute the alliance and is brokering the missile deals.
As a consequence of the unchecked trading of missile technologies, the European Union nations and other Western countries are now increasingly getting concerned about these developments. Earlier in June last year, an annual report released by the Office for the Protection of the Constitution for the German state of Baden-Wurttemberg highlighted, “Iran, Pakistan, North Korea and Syria are still pursuing such efforts.
They aim to complete existing arsenals, perfect the range, deployability and effectiveness of their weapons and develop new weapons systems. They are trying to obtain the necessary products and relevant know-how, inter alia, through illegal procurement efforts in Germany.” An analysis of the report suggests that ‘bypass countries’ like Turkey and China could help countries like Pakistan and North Korea — that are in the business of illegal and unrestricted proliferation to route their proliferation weapons and parts and help the business to grow.
Besides this, the Begin Sadat Center for Strategic Studies (BESA Centre), in its report titled “The Quadruple Threat: North Korea, China, Pakistan and Iran”, explained the transport route of proliferation technologies and weapons and had argued — “single-use “goods” related to weapons of mass destruction are clandestinely transported internally along the North Korea-China-Pakistan axis”
Magnifying the global apprehension on the trafficking of these weapons, the Defense Intelligence Agency of the United States revealed in March 2018 that Pakistan had carried out tests of Ababeel — a Multiple Independent Reentry Vehicles (MIRV) capable missile, capable of launching several nuclear warheads simultaneously. And as disclosed by ‘The Diplomat’, China later confessed about helping Pakistan in building capabilities to develop MIRVs.
In a blatant admission of sinister trade designs, China has itself admitted about illegally technology transfers and trafficking of weapons to Pakistan. The Chinese Academy of Sciences admitted in March 2018 about one of its units, Institute of Optics and Electronics, selling a powerful tracking system, capable of speeding up the development of multi-warhead missiles by Pakistan.
During the same period, it was reported that Beijing was planning to work on sustainable military cooperation with Islamabad, which also included the production of ballistic missiles, cruise missiles and a multi-role combat aircraft. According to Pakistani media reports, General Qamar Javed Bajwa himself oversaw the mechanism.
Proliferation experts have highlighted that the roots of this nexus lie in miserabilities of these countries and dates back to four decades. As China, for long, was not included in the WTO, it sought new actors and alternative clandestine markets to “dump” its products. Hence, in order to meet the requirements of the new market, it looked for new retailers and trade agencies — Pakistan and North Korea. The history reflects that China has been transferring the nuclear technologies to Pakistan for the past four decades at least.
According to the Federation of American Scientists, as early as the early 1980s, China passed the entire design for a nuclear weapon to Pakistan. Pakistan then later passed the same technology to Libya through the illicit proliferation network established by A.Q. Khan —the founder of Pakistan’s nuclear programme. Besides, Beijing also supplied weapon-grade uranium to Islamabad — that was sufficient to produce at least two nuclear weapons as well as sold components of its high-tech M-11 short-range ballistic missiles — to be used in developing nuclear warheads.
In the subsequent years, the Khan Research Laboratories — set up by AQ. Khan on behalf of the ISI, began supplying missiles to North Korea, bringing massive revenues. Further, reciprocating the help, North Korea helped Pakistan in developing liquid-fuelled Ghauri missile, based on the design of North Korean Nodong.
According to the “Pakistan’s Nuclear and WMD Programmes: Status, Evolution and Risks” report by Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), the National Development Complex of Pakistan came up with Shaheen-l, using the technology of China’s M-9 missile in 1990. By the early 2000s, Pakistan had become a major hub of the clandestine missile market and was selling devices to anti-state groups as well as other countries at cost-effective processes to make huge profits.
As the business boomed during the late 1990s and early 2000s, organizations like Nuclear Threat Initiative and FAS reported — Taiwan and Hong Kong seized numerous shipments of several tons of ammonium perchlorate, a solid-propellant component, bound for SUPARCO (Pakistan’s Space Agency) from North Korea and routed through China. There were several seizures across the world whose source or destination was either of the three countries — China, Pakistan, and North Korea.
In lines of above reports, several reports of the US government including the “Proliferation: threat and response 2001” by Office of the Secretary of Defense and the testimony by US’ Assistant Secretary of State for Non-proliferation, John S. Wolf before the US Senate have unearthed the operating procedure and nexus of China-Pakistan-North Korea nexus.
Non-proliferation activists see the boom in the business as the emergence of a new phenomenon, following the swearing-in of Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan and the arrival of Army Chief Qamar Javed Bajwa in 2018. The duo is believed to have taken the business to new heights. Further, the isolation of Pakistan from the Muslim Ummah, rebuttal to China’s illicit trade practices as well as aggression with democratic countries and opposition faced by the dictatorial regime of North Korea, have made the trio more depended on each other than ever and have compelled it to pull revenue from the clandestine market of proliferation.
A quick look at the above facts highlights that these players have violated not only one, but all the eight points of Guidelines for Sensitive Missile-Relevant Transfer prescribed by the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR). Non-proliferation activists have emphasised that the global community needs to come up with reforms in the MTCR and ensure mandatory implementation of its guidelines. A prominent non-proliferation activist whom we spoke to also suggested that the world should expel these countries from the WTO and the United Nations Organisation if these countries keep violating the MTCR guidelines.