Influential world capitals have ignored the recent unearthing of a nuclear smuggling racket in India. If it had happened in Pakistan, it would have been a world crime and a global issue but there is complete silence over the recovery of 31 tonnes of nuclear material from the accused recently arrested in Rajasthan, India. The Indian media reported recently about the theft and smuggling of this nuclear material to global networks of unknown buyers but there is no voice raised either in Washington, London or any other influential world capital against India for this global threat.
According to the media reports, a mineral smuggling racket involved in exports of beryl — an atomic mineral ore of Beryllium — to China. About 31 tonnes of beryl is learnt to have been recovered after the smuggling plan was subverted by the Department of Atomic Energy, which received information on the illegal export of beryl through an anonymous letter early in January. Following this, the IB was alerted. The inputs were verified by the intelligence agency and passed on to the Rajasthan Police’s ATS, which gathered further information and arrested six persons in end-January, resulting in the recovery of the atomic mineral, the reports said.
It is added that China is one among a handful of countries — the US, Canada, Russia and Brazil being the others — that extract beryllium from the mineral ore for use in atomic power plants, space technology and scanning equipment.
In October, prior to the latest operation, a 20-tonne consignment of beryl was learnt to have possibly been smuggled to Hong Kong from Kandla Port in Gujarat. Rajasthan accounts for about 10 per cent of the country’s output of beryl, one of the “prescribed substances” notified by the DAE under the Atomic Energy Act, 1962.
The Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Act, 1957 of India names beryl among the “atomic minerals” listed in Part B of the first schedule. Beryl is the most common ore of Beryllium, the lightest member of the alkaline earth metals family that is known to have six radioactive isotopes. Beryl also attracts the export control regulations under the Foreign Trade (Development and Regulation) Act.
A 2014 report by the Nuclear Threat Initiative, a non-Governmental group based in Washington, that pegged India’s “nuclear security practices” at a low 23rd rank among 25 countries known to possess at least a bomb’s-worth of fissile materials. Only Iran and North Korea fared worse in the analysis, which noted that India exhibited “weaknesses… in the areas of transport security, material control, and accounting, and measures to protect against the insider threat, such as personnel vetting and mandatory reporting of suspicious behaviour”.
Officially, the Indian Government has said that it does not recognise the report released by the Nuclear Threat Initiative as it is a non-Governmental organization. Before the latest nuclear material smuggling issue, India early this month had to shut down one of its Atomic Power Stations in Gujrat after leakage of heavy water from its coolant system.
By: Ansar Abbasi