NIA takes over probe on Chinese vessel with ‘suspicious’ equipment that arrived in Gujarat last year

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The Ministry of Home Affairs has handed over the probe into the case of a Chinese vessel, which authorities suspect may have been transporting missile-related equipment to Pakistan, to the National Investigation Agency (NIA). Sources said that the NIA has already registered an FIR in relation to the matter.

In February last year, intelligence inputs from the Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI) stated they had intercepted a Chinese vessel en route to Karachi at Gujarat’s Kandla port.

The inspection of the vessel had led to discovery of an industrial autoclave that experts at the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) opined could be used to manufacture long-range missiles. The vessel, sources said, had “misdeclared” the goods as industrial dryers.

Indian security establishment had at that time expressed fears that China was surreptitiously building Pakistan’s military capabilities. China had denied the allegations at that time.

“The orders to register a case in the matter came on Friday, and an FIR has been registered accordingly,” an NIA official said.

According to sources, on February 3, DRI and customs officials detained Chinese ship Dai Cui Yun at Kandla port. Upon inspection, the authorities found an autoclave, which was 18×4 m in size, and was said to be a dual-use civil and military equipment. The item was seized as it was “misdeclared” and the ship was subsequently released to sail to Port Qasim in Karachi.

Later, after being tested by the DRDO, it was said that the equipment could be used in the manufacture of long-range missiles.

The development was taken seriously by the Indian authorities, with the Ministry of External Affairs issuing a statement saying that the equipment had been seized as it was “misdeclared” and controlled under a dual-use export controls list.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian had in media interviews then denied that the equipment was meant for military use. “After seeking the information, we know that this item is actually a heat treatment furnace shell system, produced by a private company in China. This is not for military use and it is not a dual-use item under the non-proliferation and export control,” he had been quoted as saying by news agency PTI.

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