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Global Trick of the Trade: South Asia’s Illicit Nuclear Supply Chain

Title: Global Trick of the Trade: South Asia’s Illicit Nuclear Supply Chain

Authors: Jack Margolin and Irina Bukharin

Affiliation: C4ADS

Organization/Publisher: C4ADS

Date/Place: May 1, 2020/ Washington, DC, USA

Type of Literature: Analysis

Number of Pages: 16


Keywords: Pakistan, India, Nuclear Bomb, Military, Security, Geo-politics, Trade, nuclear procurement, nuclear proliferation


In this voluminous report by C4ADS researchers, around 750 million records were scrutinized to map the international supply chains behind nuclear procurement in Pakistan and India, identifying the nuclear weapons programs possessed by the two countries as “grave international security risk.”  The findings reveal that Pakistan and India’s nuclear technology procurement networks are larger and more visible in publicly available information (PAI) than previously documented.  It claims to identify entities which, while not publicly designated, exhibit “patterns of trade consistent with those of illicit procurement networks.”  It also identifies countries and regions from where Pakistan and India procure the raw material for their nuclear arsenal including Japan, China, Germany, South Korea, Hong Kong and the United States between January 2017 and July 2019.  Pakistan and India, which have fought 4 wars – 3 over Kashmir – continue to actively grow their nuclear stockpiles and have remain locked in security competition since 1947.  Both were declared nuclear weapons states in the late 1990s.  The report sheds light on India’s “ostensibly” civilian facilities – at least 222 Indian companies – that remain outside the purview of the International Atomic Energy Agency safeguards, and which could produce nuclear materials for use in its weapons program.  It also points to suppliers of the nuclear material saying the procurement networks of the two countries “behave differently” given their different operating environments, but “both are visible by studying trade data.” While Pakistan suppliers are based in mainland China, the United States, Germany, and Italy, however, its 33% of procurement comes through transshipment hubs like Hong Kong, the UAE and Singapore.  India “tends” to purchase more directly from Nuclear Security Group countries.

 By: Riyaz ul Khaliq, CIGA Non-Resident  Research Associate



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