On February 12, 2020, GreatGameIndia issued an alert regarding a suspicious shipment off the western coast of India. The ship belonged to a Chinese shipping company blacklisted by the Americans last year and was destined to Pakistan. Further investigation revealed the seized shipment carried launching gear for missiles and that China was secretly shipping nuclear arms to Pakistan, now being examined by two different teams of Indian nuclear scientists. Sources in Coastal intelligence told GreatGameIndia the intercept was based on a tip-off from the Americans who were monitoring the entire fleet of the shipping line believed to be a front of Chinese intelligence.
COSCO Shipping blacklisted by Americans
In September last year, the US Treasury department blacklisted two oil tanker subsidiaries of China Ocean Shipping Company (COSCO), a leading Chinese shipping and logistics company for shipping Iranian oil. China Concord Petroleum, Pegasus 88 Limited, Kunlun Shipping Company and Kunlun Holding Company were also sanctioned. The sanctions came just 11 days after drone attacks on the heart of Saudi Arabia’s oil production ARAMCO facility that Washington blamed on Iran.
The Trump administration was tracking the movement of tankers linked to Bank of Kunlun, a subsidiary of China’s biggest state-run oil company China National Petroleum Corporation, amid signs that the vessels are helping to transport Iranian crude to China in defiance of US sanctions against Tehran.
The move sent shockwaves through the tanker markets disrupting global shipping trade putting dozens of supertankers off limits to energy traders including Indian Oil Corporation whose charted tanker Da Yuan Hu lifting 145,000 tonnes of Mexican Isthumus oil to Paradip port in eastern India got stranded off Cape Town halting its journey to Dos Bocas Port Mexico from the Port of Singapore.
As of October 1st the American blacklisted Chinese shipping company Cosco's Da Yuan Hu tanker bringing 145,000 tonnes of Mexican oil to India has been STOPPED near Trinidad abd Tobago island. Read more here ?? https://t.co/3mkR2yPa4D pic.twitter.com/1iru2qZ0aA
— GreatGameIndia (@GreatGameIndia) October 3, 2019
On January 31, 2020, the sanctions against one of the two units of COSCO Shipping were lifted after “Phase One” trade talks with the Chinese in a move to balance the marketplace “without devastating world trade”. Americans hope the sanctions will also limit Tehran’s ballistic missile program and influence across the Middle East. However, recent developments along the Indian coast would force American analysts to think otherwise.
Military Grade Aircraft launching gears mysteriously land in India
In December last year, two military-grade aircraft launching gears to assist takeoff of jets from the deck meant for the ‘Royal Saudi Land Forces’ illegally landed at a private port in Kutch district of Gujarat through Pakistan, sending security forces into a tizzy.
Security sources said the military-grade aircraft launching gears found at the Mundra port were manufactured by only two corporate giants, Boeing (based in the US) and Airbus (headquartered in Europe).
Subscribe to GGI via Email
During the initial probe, custom officials realized that the bill of lading procured from the shipper clearly stated that the consignee was ‘Royal Saudi Land Forces’ and the gears were to reach: ‘Prince Sultan Road, HWY 156 Jizan Saudi Arabia’.
The most puzzling part was that the Saudis do not have an aircraft carrier in their fleet and diplomats at the Saudi Arabia embassy shied away from making any comments. The issue was hushed up. However, yet another suspicious shipment was intercepted just two months later which revealed the entire plot.
China secretly shipping nuclear arms to Pakistan
On February 12, 2020, GreatGameIndia issued an alert regarding a suspicious shipment off the western coast of India. A cargo ship Da Cui Yun operated by COSCO Shipping line carrying missile like machinery and arms was seized and searched by Indian intelligence agencies. The ship arrived at Deendayal Port, Kandla, western India from Jiangyin Port, China and its next destination was Port Qasim in Karachi, Pakistan.
— Anindya (@GetAni_S) February 17, 2020
Two different teams of nuclear scientists from the Defense Research and Development Organization (DRDO) were flown in to examine the cargo – a large industrial autoclave used for manufacturing composite lining for the solid-fuel ballistic missiles, a dual-use technology that can be used for the production of nuclear warheads as well.
The ship almost escaped the local port authorities who even issued the crucial “no-objection certificate” after verifying it had no dues as per the norm. The customs authorities were about to issue final clearance for the vessel to set sail when a team of officials entrusted with national security swooped in.
“Suddenly, however, there was a flurry of activity. Senior Kandla Port officials got calls from New Delhi. Officials of the Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI) and other security agencies reached Kandla,” said a local port official on condition of anonymity.
Significantly, the destination of the ship was Port Qasim in Karachi, where the Space and Upper Atmosphere Research Commission (SUPARCO), responsible for Pakistan ballistic missile programme, is based. These point to the continuing Pak-China proliferation activities with impunity.
This is not the first time that a Pak bound ship was detected carrying missile material and wrongly declaring them to avoid detection. During the Kargil conflict, the North Korean ship Ku Wol San was seized at the Kangla port. This ship was carrying missile components, metal casings and Scud missile manuals to Pakistan, which were declared as the water purifying equipment.
Turkey’s role in Sino-Pak Nuclear Proliferation
A study by the London based think tank International Institute for Strategic Studies had brought out that A Q Khan network was assisted by the Turkish companies, which imported nuclear related material from Europe, manufactured centrifuge parts and shipped them to Pakistan and other countries. It is strongly believed that Turkey could be possessing a number of centrifuges, with the assistance from Pakistan.
After Turkey declared the Kashmir struggle to be the equivalent of Gallipoli (Canakkle), Ex Chairman of India's Joint Intelligence Staff alleged that Turkey is seeking centrifuges from AQ Khan network in the wake of President Erdogan's call for Nuclear warheads for S400 missiles. https://t.co/TXbsCNYVtg
— Muhammad Ibrahim Qazi (@miqazi) February 20, 2020
When last year, Recep Tayyip Erdogan President of Turkey spoke in favour of producing nuclear weapons at a party convention, the US media pointed out the possibility of Turkey having a nuclear bomb project. The Pak-Turkey clandestine collaboration in nuclear and missile fields appears to be growing very fast. The role appears to have been reversed. While earlier Turkish companies were importing material from Europe and providing them to Pakistan, now Pak is illegally importing nuclear related material from China for Turkey.
Sources in Coastal intelligence told GreatGameIndia the intercept of the Chinese ship Da Cui Yun was based on a tip-off from the Americans who were monitoring the shipment since it left the Chinese port of Jiangyin. The incident exposed how China was secretly shipping nuclear arms to Pakistan. However, this is not the first time China was caught smuggling arms to foreign nations using the COSCO Shipping line known to be a front of Chinese intelligence.
COSCO – A front of Chinese Intelligence
The Chinese navy was linked in 1985 to illegal smuggling in foreign cars, vans, TVs and VCRs out of Hainan island in the South China Sea.
A COSCO ship was involved in the failed 1996 attempt by China to smuggle 2,000 dismantled AK-47 assault rifles in San Francisco to California street gangs. The smugglers were not COSCO employees — they used a fraudulent American import license and were later jailed by the government in Beijing — but it took American agents posing as Miami crime figures to unravel the operation.
In 1998, federal lawmakers troubled by COSCO’s reported connections to the Chinese military prevented the company from leasing a former U.S. naval base adjacent to the Port of Long Beach. The same year U.S. intelligence agencies tracked a COSCO freighter from Shanghai to Karachi, Pakistan, with a load of weapons-related goods, including specialty metals and electronics used in the production of Chinese-designed Baktar Shikha anti-tank missiles. The shipment was carried aboard a vessel owned by the company subsidiary COSCO Tianjin.
Based on information contained in the Cox Report (chaired by California Rep. Christopher Cox, the committee looked into the activities of companies linked to Chinese military and intelligence agencies), CalPERS (California Public Employees Retirement System) had invested millions of dollars in so-called “Red Chip” companies, firms headquartered outside of China but believed to be closely tied to Chinese military or intelligence operations. One of them was COSCO Shipping.
The Cox Report observed, the Securities and Exchange Commission, the federal agency chiefly responsible for safeguarding the integrity of the nation’s financial markets, “collects little information helpful in monitoring PRC commercial activities in the United States.” What pertinent information might be collected by the Central Intelligence Agency or the National Security Agency is not routinely disseminated outside of the core intelligence community.
In 2001, China was caught secretly shipping arms and explosives to Cuba. All the arms were aboard vessels belonging to COSCO. At least three arms shipments were traced from China to the Cuban port of Mariel. One of the cargoes was described as dual-use explosives and detonation cord. The explosives were said to be “military-grade” material.
The Chinese Communist Party’s military organ approved the establishment of COSCO as an arm of the Chinese Navy in 1985. Mr. James Mulvenon stated in his book “Soldiers of Fortune” that COSCO’s establishment “legitimized the use of navy ships for civilian shipping and thus provided a legal cover for the navy’s smuggling.”
China Ocean Shipping Company, or COSCO, was deemed by the US House of Representatives Task Force on Terrorism and Unconventional Warfare to be a military related entity. According to the Task Force report, “Although presented as a commercial entity, COSCO is actually an arm of the Chinese Military.”
GreatGameIndia is a journal on Geopolitics and International Relations. Get to know the Geopolitical threats India is facing in our exclusive book India in Cognitive Dissonance. Past magazine issues can be accessed from the Archives section.
Read more on Chinese Biological and Chemical warfare activities against India in our exclusive History of Narco-Terrorism issue.