India seizes UAE aircraft for illegally carrying weapons

A UAE Air Force C-130 Hercules on its way to China was detained at Kolkata (Calcutta) airport for illegally carrying weapons.

The aircraft was stopping overnight to refuel en route from Abu Dhabi to the northern Chinese city of Xianyang. It had all the necessary clearances to land in India, but not to be carrying the three crates of arms, ammunitions and one missile it had in its hold.

Indian Customs and airport officials interrogated the nine-member crew overnight before handing them over to the Ministry of Defence.

“The plane had necessary clearance but it had nowhere mentioned that it was carrying a consignment of weapons,” said Wing Commander Mahesh Upasani, spokesman of the Ministry of Defence in Kolkata.

How the Indian officials came to know the aircraft was carrying weapons is still not clear although routine inspections, alert customs agents and a tip off by Indian intelligence have all been cited.

While only a small shipment, it raises the questions of why the UAE was shipping arms to China when China usually exports them. This is especially awkward for the UAE as it has an almost exclusive relationship of buying weaponry from the US and EU, both of which have strict regulations about arms dealing with China.

In addition, the fact that Xianyang is a big arms production centre suggests that the Chinese were planning on copying the hi-tech equipment. It has also been suggested that the missile was the same type as the French sold to Taiwan.

“I would imagine the Chinese would be very interested in looking at the UAE’s French missiles,” said Siemon Wezeman of the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute.

The aircraft has now been released to fly on to its destination and the UAE apologised to India.

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