Indian Defence

Narco-Terrorism: A Looming Threat on India’s Security Horizon

India, a nation brimming with rich culture and vibrant life, faces a growing threat at its borders and within its communities – narco-terrorism. This insidious phenomenon intertwines drug trafficking with terrorism, fueling violence, instability, and addiction. Understanding the intricate web of narco-terrorism in India requires delving into the source regions, smuggling routes, the actors involved, and the devastating consequences it unleashes. Now hold on! These issues in the Indian subcontinent aren’t even comparable to Mexico, Ecuador, Colombia in one’s slightest dreams. But for sure, certain aspects of narco terror being experienced by India right now is truly concerning. And most of it comes from the fact that our country is having an unlucky geographical position in terms of the bigger narco-terrorism issues in West, Central and South Asia. So scroll down to find out more.

India is wedged between the two world’s two largest areas of illicit opium production – the Golden Crescent and the Golden Triangle. These names have been now changed to Death Crescent and Death Triangle internationally although both names are equally mean the same at a formal level.

Golden/Death Crescent

The Golden Crescent, an area nestled in the heart of Asia, has long been notorious for its significant role in the global drug trade. This region has been a hotbed for the cultivation and trafficking of illicit narcotics for decades. It spans across approximately 1.5 million square kilometres, primarily covering the mountainous terrains of Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Iran. Its strategic location, nestled between South Asia, Central Asia, and the Middle East, has facilitated the movement of illicit drugs to various parts of the world. Afghanistan, in particular, stands out as the epicentre of opium cultivation, accounting for a significant portion of the world’s illicit opium production. Afghanistan’s dominance in opium cultivation is staggering. Opium poppy cultivation has thrived in the Golden Crescent for centuries. Afghanistan stands out as the world’s leading producer, according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC). Their 2023 World Drug Report estimates suggest Afghanistan produced over 6,000 metric tons of opium in 2022, accounting for a staggering 85% of global illicit opium production. This dominance can be attributed to several factors:

  • Favorable Climate: The arid climate and fertile valleys in Afghanistan provide ideal conditions for poppy cultivation.
  • Poverty and Instability: Decades of war and political instability have driven many Afghan farmers towards poppy cultivation, a more lucrative option compared to traditional crops.
  • Weak Governance: The fragile government in Afghanistan struggles to enforce a ban on poppy cultivation, creating an environment conducive for illegal activity.

Clandestine labs scattered across Afghanistan and Pakistan convert opium into morphine and then heroin. These labs often operate with minimal safety regulations, posing a significant environmental hazard. Elaborate smuggling networks transport heroin out of the region. A major route runs through Pakistan’s Balochistan province, then onwards to Iran or via the Arabian Sea towards Africa and Europe. Central Asia also acts as a transit point, with heroin destined for Russia and beyond.

The Golden Crescent drug trade isn’t run by a single entity.  Here’s a glimpse into the key players:

  • The Taliban: The Taliban’s return to power in Afghanistan in 2021 has complicated the issue. While they have officially outlawed poppy cultivation, the reality remains murky. Reports suggest the Taliban may be taxing poppy farmers or even directly participating in the trade, potentially seeking to finance their regime.
  • Insurgent Groups: Groups like the Haqqani Network, designated a Foreign Terrorist Organization by the US, are deeply entrenched in the drug trade. They use drug profits to finance their activities, destabilize the Afghan government, and expand their influence.
  • Drug Trafficking Organizations (DTOs): Numerous DTOs operate within Afghanistan and Pakistan, controlling various aspects of the trade – from cultivation and processing to transportation and distribution. These groups often have close ties to insurgent groups and exploit weak border security for smuggling.
  • Corrupt Officials: Widespread corruption within Afghan and Pakistani governments and security forces remains a significant challenge. Officials who turn a blind eye to drug trafficking or even actively collude with smugglers become crucial cogs in the machinery.
Golden Crescent and Triangle areas (image credits – Wikipedia *cropped)

Golden/Death Triangle

A region notorious for its prolific production and trafficking of illicit drugs – Golden Triangle encompasses the area of northeastern Myanmar, northwestern Thailand and northern Laos sitting on the confluence of the Ruak and Mekong rivers. While the exact scale of production is difficult to pinpoint due to the clandestine nature of the operations, UNODC (United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime) paints a concerning picture from this area. Myanmar remains a significant player, producing a substantial portion of the world’s illicit opium coming from this region. Southeast Asian countries seized over 170 tons of methamphetamines in 2021 alone, a testament to the region’s production capacity. Cambodia and Malaysia serve as transit points, with drugs often disguised in legitimate cargo or hidden in secret compartments of vehicles. The Indian Ocean and Pacific Ocean become vital arteries for smuggling large quantities of drugs, with destinations ranging from East and Southeast Asia to Australia and even Africa. In 2023, Myanmar became the largest producer of opium after an estimated 1080 tonnes of contraband was produced according to a report of UNODC.

  • Ethnic Armed Organizations (EAOs):  These rebel groups, often with long-standing grievances against their national governments, control vast swathes of territory within the Golden Triangle. They derive significant revenue by taxing poppy and precursor chemical production, offering protection to labs, and even directly participating in the drug trade. Prominent EAOs include the United Wa State Army (UWSA) in Myanmar, and the Tai Lue people’s United Liberation Front (ULAF) in Laos.
  • Triad Societies:  Chinese Triad groups, like the 14K and the United Bamboo Gang, play a crucial role in financing the production, providing precursor chemicals essential for meth synthesis, and laundering drug profits. Their extensive networks facilitate smuggling across borders.
  • Corrupt Officials:  Widespread corruption within governments and security forces in the region weakens efforts to dismantle drug production and trafficking. Officials who turn a blind eye or actively collude with smugglers become crucial cogs in the machinery.

India’s Part

India is among the 12 only countries which legally produce opium and is the only country where production of opium gum, a derivative of the same plant. According to CIA, India is the largest manufacturer of legal opium. 22 districts from the three states – Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh contribute to the entire legal production volume. India depends heavily on the home-grown licit production and Afghanistan-imported opium for the poppy seeds used in various edible and cuisine purposes. However this legal side gives birth to the dark side of the opium gum exploitation – the source for the Morphine, Codeine, Heroin and Opium contrabands. The difference in market prices is massive. Government rates are Rs. 1800/kg while the illegal market ranges from Rs. 60,000 – 120,000/kg. The Drugs in Question – Heroin, Cannabis, Amphetamine Type Stimulants, Methaqualone, Cocaine etc.

Heroin – Heroin is a highly addictive and illegal opioid drug derived from morphine, a naturally occurring substance found in the opium poppy plant. It produces a euphoric rush followed by intense feelings of relaxation and pleasure. However, these effects are short-lived and lead to intense cravings for more of the drug. It’s a powerful central nervous system depressant, meaning it slows down the body’s functions. Heroin use carries a high risk of overdose and death. Overdose occurs when the drug slows down breathing to a dangerous level. Other risks include infections from contaminated needles (if injected), collapsed veins, heart problems, and organ damage. According to the Narcotics Control Bureau, major heroin trafficking takes place through Indo-Pak border across J&K and Punjab. There has been a recent increase in maritime trafficking of South West Asian heroin through sea. Substantial quantity seizures of hroin have effected population of Punjab, Delhi and UP.

2017’s 3000 pound heroin bust from Porbander, Gujarat (Image Credits – Indian Coast Guard)

Cannabis (locally known as Ganja, resinous part known as Hashish) – It is the most widely used illicit drug in the world. Surface transport is the largest contributing factor in the trafficking routes of East and North east India. Large trafficking routes exist in Nepal border and in the states of Odisha and Himachal Pradesh while some scarcely used routes are present in Manipur and West Bengal. Charas/hashish also spreads out in distribution routes from Himachal Pradesh and J&K to the different metro cities of India.

Image Credits – Narcotics Control Bureau 2021 Annual Report

New Psychoactive Substance (NPS) – These is a genre of rapidly emerging newer drug variants which pose a considerable challenge for prevention and treatment due to less knowledge about the adverse health effects. Also it is currently tough to carry out analysis and identification along with cures due to the chemically diverse substances present in them and a probable lack of equipment and research to find cures for every constituent. Side effects range from seizures, agitation, aggression, acute psychosis, potential dependence on addictive consumption along with unknown data of potential hazards including long term adverse effects, toxicity, carcinogenic development in cells, probable overdose deaths etc.

Cocaine – Cocaine is a highly addictive stimulant drug derived from the coca plant native to South America. Cocaine increases heart rate and blood pressure, putting significant strain on the heart. This can lead to heart attack, stroke, and even sudden death, especially in high doses in first-time use. It causes respiratory problems like shortness of breath, chest pain, and even respiratory failure. Inhaling powdered cocaine can damage the lungs, leading to long-term complications. Cocaine disrupts the brain’s reward system and can damage nerve cells, leading to impaired memory, judgment, and decision-making abilities. Cocaine trafficking in India is relatively less prevalent compared to other drugs like heroin or methamphetamine. Cocaine is smuggled through sea routes, hidden within containers or on ships, entering India through major ports like Mumbai or Chennai where there have been reports of seizures.

Large cannabis field somewhere close to Himalayas

Notable Drug Busts In India Since 2000s

Over 100 kg of heroin seized by the Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI) at the Nhava Sheva port, reportedly linked to a Pakistani smuggling ring from Mumbai in 2000. The DRI seized over 50 kg of heroin hidden within a container of scrap metal originating from Afghanistan in Chennai. The Assam Rifles, a paramilitary force, intercepted a large consignment of heroin (quantity classified) along the India-Myanmar border in 2007. The Punjab Police recovered a massive cache of heroin (quantity not specified) along with weapons, believed to be linked to a cross-border smuggling operation in 2013. The DRI seized over 70 kg of heroin at the Mundra port, hidden within a consignment of gypsum powder originating from Afghanistan in 2015. The Manipur Police confiscated a significant amount of methamphetamine (quantity not specified) suspected to be smuggled from the Golden Triangle region in 2017. The DRI intercepted a shipment containing nearly 200 kg of ephedrine, a precursor chemical used in meth production, originating from China in Kolkata 2019.

July 31, 2017, details a significant heroin seizure in Punjab, India. The operation took place in Amritsar, a city in the northern Indian state of Punjab. Indian authorities recovered a staggering 435 kilograms (kg) of heroin during the raid. This immense quantity highlights the scale of drug trafficking in the region. It involved Border Security Force (BSF) with possible connection of the heroin bust to be originated across the border, possibly from neighbouring Pakistan or Afghanistan. The seized heroin has an estimated street value of ₹ 1,300 crores (approximately USD 1.8 billion).

1 December, 2020 details a massive drug seizure by Indian authorities off the coast of Kerala. The Indian Navy and the Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) collaborated in this successful operation where a staggering 2,500 kg (2.5 tonnes) of drugs were seized from a ship near the Kerala coast consisting of 134 bags of methamphetamine. The seized drugs were estimated to be worth a staggering ₹ 12,000 crore (approximately USD 1.6 billion). Source of the drugs were mentioned to be Death Crescent and one Pakistani national present in the boat was arrested.

How Did India Get The Record Breaking Drug Bust?

The Feb 28, 2024 drug bust by Indian Navy with the 5 arrested Pak nationals (Image credits – X, SpokespersonNavy)

In a joint operation, India’s Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB), Indian Navy, and Gujarat Anti-Terrorist Squad successfully seized roughly 3,300 kilograms of drugs from a dhow boat in the Indian Ocean. The operation took place approximately 60 nautical miles off the Indian coast. February 28, 2024 comes as yet another significant of India’s major drug bust history as the Indian Navy, in a repeat of their 2021 feat, seized a substantial quantity of illegal narcotics – 3,300 kg (3.3 tonnes) of hashish and methamphetamine in this operation. 3,110 kg of Charas (hashish), 158.3 kg of crystal methamphetamine (meth) and 24.6 kg of suspected heroin were reported. The international market value of these drugs is estimated to be more than Rs 2000 crore. “Produce of Pakistan” is written on the cache of the seized narcotics packs and five Pak national suspects have been arrested. This is by far the largest drug seizure in Indian subcontinent. The success of this operation hinged on crucial intelligence. A P-8I long-range maritime patrol aircraft pinpointed a suspicious dhow suspected of smuggling contraband. This intel swiftly guided a deployed warship to intercept the vessel in the Indian Ocean, roughly 60 nautical miles off the coast. Hailing the agencies involved, Union Home Minister Amit Shah underscored the government’s unwavering commitment to eliminating drug abuse in India. NCB Director General S.N. Pradhan revealed that this operation, codenamed “Sagar Manthan-I,” was just one of many recent successes achieved through collaboration. Sister agencies like the Navy, Coast Guard, intelligence units, and state police forces have joined forces in these efforts. The establishment of the National Narcotics Coordination Portal in 2019 played a pivotal role in facilitating this successful operation.

Also Read, Complexities In Indian Defence Procurement: A Comprehensive Overview

Punjab : A Make or Break Location for Trafficking

Punjab’s location makes it vulnerable. It borders Pakistan, a major source of heroin (via the Golden Crescent route – Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran), and shares borders with other Indian states that act as transit points for drugs from neighbouring countries. Even though minimal, nevertheless a possible lack of coordination among various agencies like the police, Border Security Force (BSF), Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI), Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB), and Intelligence Bureau can anytime result in intelligence lapses. Drug cartels in Punjab and Pakistan meticulously plan their smuggling operations. A thorough examination and in-depth study of various elements, including weather patterns, geographical features, existing crops, lunar phases, communication networks, transportation methods, geographical landmarks, security force presence and movements, surveillance technology availability, as well as local contacts and sympathizers in target areas, are considered in the process of selecting the site and timing for smuggling operations. In a move to tackle the state’s drug problem, Punjab established a Special Task Force (STF) on March 31, 2017. Headed by seasoned police officer Harpreet Sidhu, a recent returnee from the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF), the STF boasts three Inspector General (IG)-rank officers on its team. This high-level task force reflects the seriousness with which Chief Minister Singh is personally overseeing the anti-drug campaign. To facilitate direct communication, Sidhu has been given an office within the Chief Minister’s office, allowing for daily progress reports. Further bolstering security efforts, Chief Minister Singh greenlit the creation of an anti-terror squad (ATS) within Punjab’s intelligence wing on April 24, 2017. This specialized unit aims to dismantle the growing connection between terrorists and gangsters operating within the state’s prisons.

NE India – The scourge of drug addiction has rapidly proliferated among the youth population of Northeast India. Regrettably, states such as Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Tripura, and Manipur have become prime targets for drug peddlers, resulting in a substance abuse epidemic that surpasses the national average by nearly 20 percent. Drug trafficking in Northeast India features the following factors –

  • The illicit cultivation of opium and cannabis
  • The smuggling of heroin and amphetamines into NE India from Myanmar in small quantities.
  • The tracking of pharmaceuticals from other parts of country into NE India and their smuggling to neighbouring countries.
  • The trafficking of ephedrine and pseudoephedrine – precursors for the manufacturing of amphetamines between India and Myanmar.
India’s recorded trafficking routes for heroine (Image Credits – Narcotics Control Bureau 2020 Annual Report)

Celebrities in a Notorious Mix

India’s vibrant entertainment industry, churning out Bollywood blockbusters and regional hits, often portrays a world of glitz and glamour. However, beneath the surface lies a darker reality – a persistent struggle with drug trafficking and abuse that has ensnared even some of its biggest stars. India’s vast population and growing disposable income create a lucrative market for drug traffickers. Drugs like cocaine, heroin, and synthetic narcotics, often smuggled through porous borders or via darknet markets, find willing customers among celebrities seeking an escape from the pressures of fame or succumbing to peer pressure.

Bollywood Drug Probe (2020): In September 2020, the Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) launched a high-profile drug probe into alleged drug use and trafficking in the Bollywood film industry. The investigation was prompted by the death of actor Sushant Singh Rajput, who was found dead in his Mumbai apartment in June 2020. The probe led to the arrest of several individuals, including actors, producers, and talent agents, on charges of drug possession and consumption. Actress Rhea Chakraborty became embroiled in controversy following allegations of her involvement in the drug-related death of Sushant Singh Rajput. The NCB arrested Chakraborty and several others, including her brother, on charges of procuring drugs for Rajput and facilitating their consumption. The case sparked a media frenzy and reignited debates about drug abuse and nepotism in Bollywood.

Shah Rukh Khan’s Son Arrest (2021): In October 2021, Aryan Khan, the son of Bollywood superstar Shah Rukh Khan, was arrested by the NCB in connection with a drug bust on a cruise ship off the coast of Mumbai. Aryan Khan and several others were detained for alleged possession and consumption of drugs during the party on the ship. The incident sparked a nationwide debate about drug abuse among young people and the role of celebrity influence.

Identifying specific cartels or kingpins directly supplying drugs to celebrities in India is difficult due to the secretive nature of these operations and ongoing investigations. Unlike some Latin American cartels with well-known leaders, Indian drug trafficking networks are often decentralized and operate in secrecy. This makes it difficult to identify and track individual kingpins supplying celebrities. Celebrities likely wouldn’t directly interact with high-level kingpins.  Their connection would be through a chain of middlemen, distributors, and potentially people within their own social circles who facilitate access to drugs. The fast-paced lifestyle, demanding schedules, and access to wealth can make celebrities particularly vulnerable to drug abuse. The misconception that drugs enhance creativity or provide a temporary escape from the limelight further fuels the problem. However, addiction often leads to a downward spiral, tarnishing careers, damaging reputations, and even resulting in tragic consequences. High-profile cases of celebrity drug busts not only shock fans but also highlight the pervasiveness of the issue.

What is Darknet in Narco terms ?

Darknet markets refer to online platforms that operate on encrypted networks and allow users to buy and sell various illicit goods and services, including drugs, anonymously. These markets often use cryptocurrencies for transactions, providing a degree of anonymity to both buyers and sellers. In India, the use of darknet markets for drug trafficking has become a growing concern, with increasing reports of drug purchases and sales through these platforms. While specific statistics on darknet drug trafficking in India may be limited due to the clandestine nature of such activities, there are several key factors and trends worth considering:

  • Growing Use of Darknet Markets: The proliferation of internet access and technological advancements has facilitated the growth of darknet markets globally, including in India. These platforms provide a convenient avenue for drug dealers and users to conduct transactions discreetly, away from the scrutiny of law enforcement.
  • Availability of Drugs: A wide range of drugs, including opioids, synthetic drugs, cannabis, and prescription medications, are available for sale on darknet markets catering to Indian users. These drugs are often sourced from both domestic and international suppliers, highlighting the transnational nature of darknet drug trafficking.
  • Cryptocurrency Transactions: Darknet markets typically facilitate transactions using cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin, Ethereum, and Monero. This enables buyers and sellers to conduct transactions anonymously, making it challenging for law enforcement agencies to track and intercept illegal drug transactions. According to research by Bajoka LLC law firm in 2020, India ranked 9th globally for the total value of cryptocurrency used on darknet markets, sending $24 million and receiving $18 million. This suggests India might be a source and a destination for drugs sold on these platforms.
  • Challenges for Law Enforcement: Darknet drug trafficking poses significant challenges for law enforcement agencies in India. The anonymity afforded by these platforms, coupled with the use of cryptocurrencies, makes it difficult to identify and apprehend individuals involved in illegal drug activities. Additionally, the cross-border nature of darknet drug trafficking further complicates enforcement efforts.
  • Emergence of Local Darknet Forums: In addition to accessing international darknet markets, there are reports of the emergence of local darknet forums and communities catering specifically to Indian users. These platforms may offer a more localized marketplace for drug transactions, catering to the unique preferences and demands of Indian consumers.

While drug trafficking has spread across India, so have the efforts of officers from the Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI) to thwart such activities, often at great risk to their own lives. In an exemplary display of dedication, in April 2019, amidst the serene slumber of Manipur, a specialized team of DRI officers ventured into the dense cover of a forest in pursuit of drug smugglers. Despite the looming threat posed by extremist elements, these officers, fortified by their resolve and bolstered by the invaluable assistance of the Assam Rifles, embarked on a daring nocturnal operation. With precision and strategic planning, the officers maneuvered to encircle both groups simultaneously, fully cognizant of the risks involved. After meticulous observation and confirmation of their targets, the officers swiftly closed in, apprehending all seven individuals without hesitation. The culmination of their efforts yielded a significant haul – approximately 100,000 tablets of Methamphetamine, commonly referred to as YaBa tablets, were seized from the apprehended smugglers.

Pakistan’s Notorious Involvement in Ways of Drug Smuggling Into India

In the ongoing battle against drugs entering India from Pakistan, traffickers constantly devise new and cunning methods to bypass border security. While challenging to construct and maintain, there have been instances of smugglers digging elaborate tunnels beneath the border to transport drugs. Freights and trucks crossing the border can be outfitted with hidden compartments to conceal drugs. This can involve modifying fuel tanks, hollowing out beams, or creating false walls within cargo containers. India’s complex network of canals along the border presents an opportunity for smugglers to use small boats for nighttime transportation, exploiting blind spots and limited patrolling. Individuals, often lured by money or coerced by threats, act as human mules by swallowing capsules filled with drugs. This is a dangerous practice, as the capsules can burst and lead to fatal overdoses for the carrier. These types of live body smuggling filled with contraband from the Escobar and Guadalahara cartel eras in Colombia and Mexico. Forged documents or exploiting loopholes in trade agreements can allow seemingly innocuous goods to pass through customs checks, potentially concealing drugs within. A good percentage of seizures are caught in port areas and on high seas through coast guard and naval efforts. In September 2023, advanced developments were discovered as Pak smugglers were using drones in flood affected areas of Kasur near our border to transport heroin, which was later verified by Pak PM’s journalism aide too.

Captured Pak drone transporting heroin (Image Credits – NDTV)

Pakistan as a nation is actually complicated to define in amicable terms. It itself as a big share of problems with the military control, neighbour scuffles around its whole border except China, economic downfall and a sheer lack of quality public service and infrastructure. However these drug smuggling and narco activities aren’t carried by the government on paper but the organized crime syndicated and drug rings which fall under the scanner. Contrabands have billions of dollars of street value. There’s no doubt you have so many movies and series from this genre alone. The whole point of this activity is to extract profit, and build a connected network of unwavering trusted criminals (provided there’s a growing network of actual drug cartels). Around the world, it’s only 10-20% contrabands which actually get caught while the rest become money printing results from the activities they follow. Similarly from the drug smuggling activities from Pakistan and our eastern boundaries inside India result to be a breeding ground for money. More money means more capacity in dealing further drugs, weapons, human trafficking for profit etc. Whatever news that you see about captured drugs and weapon seizures, arrested individuals etc. are just a tip of the iceberg (and it is true globally).

The promotion of illicit narcotics and sponsorship of terrorism align with Pakistan’s foreign policy objectives in the region. The geographical and political landscape of the area facilitates Pakistan’s support for terrorism in Jammu and Kashmir. Favourable climatic conditions enable poppy cultivation, while political instability allows Pakistan to organize groups like the Mujahideen to advance its interests in India. The funds allocated by Pakistan for sponsoring terrorism in India roughly equal its revenue from the illicit narcotics trade, estimated at around US $2 billion. This suggests that narcotics sustain Pakistan’s strategy of engaging India in countering cross-border terrorism. Islamabad aims to undermine India’s political and economic resolve by injecting hard currency generated from illicit drug trade into the Indian economy, thereby destabilizing the local money market. Economic liberalization in India has created opportunities for Pakistan-based drug syndicates to exploit. With relaxed government control over banking and financial institutions, reduced availability of loans, increased borrowing costs, and lower returns on deposits, money launderers and drug traffickers channel their illicit funds into the domestic money market. This influx of capital, particularly during real estate booms in cities like Bombay and Delhi, artificially inflates price indices, creating economic imbalances. Additionally, drug money laundered through channels like Hawala deprives India of foreign exchange earnings, further impacting the economy in the long term. Although the effects of such destabilizing actions may not be immediately evident, their influence on the economy poses significant concerns for the nation. The pressing issue at hand is how to effectively address the threat of narco-terrorism in India. The presence of illicit narcotics originating from the Golden Crescent region, along with the evident involvement of Pakistani politicians and law enforcement agencies, has created an atmosphere of insecurity in the Indian subcontinent. To address this instability, it is crucial to analyze the prevailing situation in Pakistan, which has emerged as a hotbed for both terrorism and drug trafficking. Without a thorough examination of the root causes behind the sponsorship of terrorism, it is impossible for any government or non-governmental agency to devise an effective response to this complex phenomenon. India is also applying its own forces for drug busts and thwarting further attempts. Many a times, backtracking these captured drug smugglers give up the sources to their business origins, terror groups, centres for drug production, weapon caches etc. State police departments, border security forces etc. are highly engaged in making the country drug smuggling free with rapid deployments in instances of possible attempts from intelligence services, deployment of drones, military dogs, ground patrol, special forces deployment in land and maritime etc.

A huge cache of AKs, grendades and 250 rounds discovered at Indo-Pak border’s Kassowal post, Gurdaspur sector

How Does Drug Smuggling Synonymize With Threat To National Security?

Drug smuggling poses a significant threat to national security due to its multifaceted impact on various aspects of society, including public health, law enforcement, economy, and governance.

Public Health Crisis: Drug smuggling contributes to the proliferation of illicit substances, including opioids, cocaine, methamphetamine, and synthetic drugs, which pose serious public health risks. These drugs can lead to addiction, overdose, and death, causing immense harm to individuals and communities. According to the World Drug Report 2021 by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), an estimated 275 million people worldwide used drugs at least once in 2020, with opioids accounting for a significant portion of drug-related deaths.

Violent Crime and Organized Crime: Drug smuggling often goes hand in hand with organized crime syndicates, which engage in violent activities such as trafficking, turf wars, and intimidation to protect their illicit operations. The presence of drug cartels and criminal networks undermines public safety and stability, leading to increased levels of violence and insecurity in affected areas. Historically these contrabands itself are the reason nations like Mexico turn into narco states. Although India doesn’t have designated cartel rings dedicated to narco terrorism, at least as of now to public knowledge, initialization of low signature smuggling activities turn into bigger empires if not controlled with force.

Corruption and Undermining Governance: Drug smuggling fuels corruption at various levels of government, law enforcement, and judiciary, undermining the rule of law and eroding public trust in institutions. Corrupt officials may facilitate drug trafficking by turning a blind eye to illicit activities, accepting bribes, or actively colluding with criminal organizations. The way India operates, it won’t ever become a narco state especially due to our stronger governmental and military interventions. But several nations are falling due to these uncontrolled corruption inside and outside the government while the people are being controlled by stronger cartels.

Economic Impacts: The illicit drug trade siphons off billions of dollars from the legitimate economy each year, diverting resources away from productive sectors and undermining economic development. According to the UNODC, the global illicit drug market was estimated to be worth over $500 billion in 2019, with drug trafficking organizations reaping substantial profits. Additionally, drug-related crimes, such as theft, fraud, and money laundering, impose significant costs on society and strain law enforcement resources.

Cross-Border Threat: Drug smuggling often transcends national borders, posing challenges to border security and sovereignty. Transnational drug trafficking networks exploit porous borders, weak law enforcement, and corruption to transport illicit substances across international boundaries. This facilitates the flow of drugs into multiple countries, exacerbating drug-related problems on a global scale.

Healthcare Burden: The consequences of drug abuse, including addiction, overdose, and infectious diseases, impose a heavy burden on healthcare systems, diverting resources away from other essential services. Substance abuse-related healthcare costs, including treatment, hospitalization, and rehabilitation, place strain on public finances and contribute to long-term societal challenges.

Terrorism Financing: In some cases, drug smuggling serves as a significant source of funding for terrorist organizations and insurgent groups. These groups exploit the lucrative drug trade to finance their activities, purchase weapons, and recruit fighters, posing a direct threat to national security and stability.


Subhodip Das

An Average Mechanical Engineering student from Jadavpur University, Kolkata who dreams of having a fully customized AR-15 draped on the wall....very childish ain't it ! Well apart from that, Art is the one absolute thing I practically live for.

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