Wednesday, May 20, 2009


The international media remains toujours preoccupied with fears of NCB-material thefts from Pakistan’s installations. There are some feeble voices, like that of US Congressman Ed Markey who, nevertheless, occasionally expresses concern at fragile security of India’s WMD materials and technology. Markey considers that India’s installations are very porous and offer scope for theft, and by corollary, proliferation.
Concern about India is corroborated by her historical record. Let us have a bird’s-eye view of a few incidents. Four containers of phosphorous penta - sulphide were detained by Sri-Lankan authorities at Colombo Port, en-route Bombay to Israel (1994). These containers contained ingredients for manufacture of a deadly nerve gas. In 1989, India publicly confirmed that Yellowcake was being smuggled from Jaduguda Uranium mines in the Singhbhum region of southern Bihar to Nepal. Yellowcakes are manufactured from Uranium powder that could be converted into radiological-dispersal devices, commonly known as dirty bombs. The notorious smuggler, Maheshwar Deo Singh was caught by Indian police and 1.8 kg of Uranium was recovered from his possession in 1989. In the Uranium market of Kathmandu, one kg of Jaduguda Uranium costs Rs 1 crore. On being interrogated, Deo confessed that his network of couriers have been carrying on the `businesss’ for the past several years. He disclosed that a courier gets the minimum of Indian Rs 25,000 for successfully carrying a consignment from Jaduguda to various dumping centres in Bihar and West Bengal. From there the inter-country `dealers’ smuggled Uranium to Katmandu.
In 1990/1991, two shiploads, containing Nuclear Biological and Chemical (NBC) materials from India were on their way to Syria, but the vessels were called back. However, later in 1992, India succeeded to deliver such consignments to Syria. India supplied thiodyglycol and some other chemicals to Iran in 1992. Again in 1993, the United Phosphorous Ltd of India supplied 30 tonnes of trimethyl – phosphate to Iran. During November- December 1993, India made an abortive attempt to ship chemicals to Iraq through Jordan. The shipment embarked from Madras Port. The information about this shipment was received by American Government, which protested to Jordan and the ship was turned back. In 1994, four containers of phosphorous penta – sulphide were detained by Sri-Lankan authorities at Colombo Port, en-route Bombay to Israel. The consignment contained ingredients for manufacturing a deadly nerve gas.
Three persons, with eight kilograms of Uranium were arrested by India’s Central Bureau of Investigation in Tamil Nadu in July 1998. The stolen material contained six kilograms of natural Uranium. The contraband was sent to Indira Gandhi Centre for Atomic Research for analysis. It confirmed that the recovered material contained Uranium 235 and 238. On 31 July 1998, two engineers were arrested by police. They were carrying 2.31 kilograms of Uranium from. From the samples, 1.40 percent and 2.20 percent of enriched uranium was extracted, confirming that the recovered Uranium was neither an ore, nor a depleted compound. Mumbai Police seized 8.3 kilograms of uranium, confirmed by Bhaba Atomic Research Centre to be radioactive, on May 1, 2000.
In 1994, a shipment of beryllium and other material worth over US $ 24 million, useful for making an H-bomb, was caught in Vilnius. This catch confirmed the late 1980s CIA assessment that India was trying to develop a Hydrogen bomb.
Let us quote a few more incidents. An Indian national, Sitaram Rai Mahadevan, having Canadian citizenship and permanently residing in the USA, was arrested in October 2003 for sending blueprints of specialized nuclear valves to North Korea. Twenty-five kilograms of radioactive uranium were recovered from smugglers on November 5, 2000, and fifty-seven pounds of uranium on November 7, 2000. On 13 Nov 2000, three uranium rods were recovered from smugglers, according to an IAEA report. On August 27, 2001 West Bengal police arrested two men with more than 200 grams of semi-processed uranium. Radioactive Cobalt-60 rods were stolen from the Tata Steel factory in Jamshedpur on August 15, 2003. Seven hundred and fifty kilograms of Uranium was stolen during transportation from Jadugora Uranium Mines (Bihar) to Hyderabad in January 1999.
Delhi based M/S NEC Engineers Private Limited shipped 10 consignments of prohibited material, worth $ 791,343, to Iraq between September 1998 and February 2001. The exports included titanium vessels, spherical aluminum powder, titanium centrifugal pumps and industrial cells with platinum anodes that can be used in the manufacture of rocket propellant. Protech Consultant Private Limited supplied NBC-weapons-related material to Iraq as well as Iran. This shipment violated USA-imposed sanctions on NEC Engineers and Protech Consultant Private Limited of India. Taiwanese customs authorities recovered 1,000 tons of Aluminum Oxide from a North Korean container ship in August 2003. The Aluminum Oxide found aboard the ship had been manufactured in India. The substance when mixed with other materials could be used for making shells. Twenty-nine Titanium Alloy Rings, worth Indian Rs 22.50 lakh, used in rocket engine were stolen from the highly-guarded Liquid Propulsion Systems Centre in Bangalore (February 6-12, 2004). Two persons, Khurshid and Aslam, were arrested by Bareilly Police with 254 grams of weapon-grade Uranium.
That‘s not all. Akhtar Hussain Qutbuddin Ahmed, an Indian businessman working in Dubai was deported on 12 June 2004, on charges of trying to sell India’s nuclear secrets to various diplomatic missions. He was accused of offering nuclear secrets which he had acquired from his brother who was working as a senior scientist at Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC). He was interrogated by police and security agencies for over 40 hours and later handed over to India, on arrival he was arrested at Mumbai airport.

An Indian national Sitaram Rai Mahadevan, having Canadian citizenship and permanently residing in USA, was arrested in October 2003 for allegedly sending blueprints of specialized valves, a critical part for nuclear plants to North Korea. On 30 September 2004, US State Department announced imposition of sanctions against two Indian nuclear scientists; Dr C Surrender and Dr. Y S R Prasad for transferring unconventional weapons and missile technology to Iran.
On 23 March 2007 US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) arrested two Indian citizens Parthasarathy Sudarshan and Mythili Gopal in South Carolina, USA. They were involved in smuggling to India US-made electronic components for use in missile-guidance system.
The above incidents are only tip of the iceberg. Indians even advertised on websites dual-use (nuclear) equipment. It is unfortunate that the world community seldom shifts its focus, away from Pakistan, to India.

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