imran khan
Illustration by Soham Sen | ThePrint Team

by Syed Zain Jaffery 7 March 2020

Pakistan has started to emerge as a responsible nuclear weapons state as a result of continuous improvement in its nuclear credentials. Yet Pakistan has repeatedly received criticism and propaganda about nuclear safety and security from international critics especially Indian backed analysts and media outlets. In a recent episode of sheer propaganda, Indian Customs’ officials detained a ship — bearing a Hong Kong flag and bound for Port Qasim in Karachi — for ‘wrongly’ declaring an autoclave, which can be used in the launch process of ballistic missiles, as an industrial dryer. India alleged that the cargo has been certified as a “dual-use” item, which means it can be used for both civilian and military purposes. Pakistan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) has declared that the cargo was a heat treatment furnace casing system which has several industrial applications. MOFA also indicated that the item was correctly declared in the relevant documentation and this item is not listed in any international export control list. Whereas, China has also categorically denied any military application of the autoclave on the ship that India claimed to be material for ballistic missiles.

Indian media hilariously reported that “the port where the cargo was headed in Pakistan is near to Space and Upper Atmosphere Research Commission (SUPARCO) which developed Pakistan’s nuclear technologies.” Indian media has gone so far in propaganda against Pakistan that they branded SUPARCO, the national space agency of the Government of Pakistan, as an institute responsible for Pakistan’s ballistic missile program and nuclear technologies.

It is primarily being suspected by Indian agencies that shipment was an autoclave machine. An autoclave is a pressure chamber used to carry out industrial and scientific processes requiring elevated temperature and pressure concerning ambient pressure/temperature. The trade in autoclaves contributes significantly to India’s overall GDP percentage, and it is not surprising that Indian ports are booming in this area. Whereas, the shipment of autoclaves on Indian ports is a regular business. The HSN (Harmonized System of Nomenclature) code – which was developed by the World Customs Organization with the vision of classifying goods – is 8419, which implies to machinery or laboratory equipment. The HSN code 8419 is not subject to Dangerous or Hazardous goods, according to the Charter of imports, although it is issue to EHS (Environment, health and safety) rules.

The whole incident seems wicked aim to blame Pakistan for illicit trade and nuclear proliferation while exaggerating India’s nuclear record on non-proliferation. There is not a very flawless picture of India’s nuclear proliferation record if we examine history thoroughly. To proliferate nuclear weapons, India used Canadian expertise and financing. This was the very first proliferation by any nation of South Asia which involved approximately ten NPT signatories. whereas on various occasions, Indian companies have been sanctioned by the U.S. government for illicit nuclear trade with Iran, Iraq and Libya, which depicts potential weaknesses in Indian export control measures and flawed non-proliferation record. Diplomatic snubbing among India and the U.S. spread in April 2003, since New Delhi was upset with Washington, on releasing an unclassified report on India’s illegal nuclear trade with Libya which was published by the CIA. The policy of global powers, such as the United States, seems now to downplay the failed record of Indian non-proliferation. In India, information was widely leaked related to the sensitive centrifuge design, products were unlawfully obtained for its nuclear arms programs, and export control systems were not appropriately enforced.

On the other hands, Pakistan began discussions on the implementation of an extensive national export control mechanism soon after the overt nuclearisation in South Asia. The Pakistan Export Control Act on Goods, Technologies, Material and Equipment related to nuclear and biological weapons and their delivery system was enacted in 2004. Just after that in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, a strategic export control division was established. As Pakistan persists to reform and strengthen its existing export control framework, it has the appropriate enforcement and implementation capacities to ensure compliance with national and international commitments. So the allegation of illicit trade by Pakistan is highly overstated and it seems another false flag operation conducted by Indian customs and DRDO with malicious intent just before President Trump visit to India because Modi was failed to isolate Pakistan at every forum.

This is not the first incident orchestrated by India against Pakistan on suspicion of foul play. In 2015, a pigeon suspected of being a Pakistani spy was investigated by Indian intelligence agencies. The obsession with Pakistan must be realized by India as a disease that creates quite a range of new concerns for the two countries and the region. India needs to acknowledge that its present course leads to South Asian strategic instability, which is destructive. India must give up its disordered obsession against Pakistan. Pakistan deliberates itself equally accountable to the international community for strengthening the global nuclear non-proliferation regime and eventually eliminating all probabilities of nuclear proliferation.