India Elections (Part VII): The Punjab Saga – OpEd


Drone-assisted ‘Narco Terrorism’ devastates youth, public holds ruling AAP responsible. Illicit drug trade, weapons trafficking, terrorism & political assassinations potpourri in Punjab politics

Punjab votes on June 1 in the last and final phase of general elections currently underway in India to constitute a new national government. However, the most significant issue confronting voters in this border state is not unemployment, inflation or corruption, but a drugs epidemic that is sweeping the state and destroying its youth.

Narco terrorism, Pakistan, Punjab, banned Khalistani terror outfits using high-tech drones and Punjab’s ruling Aam Admi Party – The unholy nexus is devastating the youth and endangering the future of this once-most-prosperous northern state of India.

Pakistan, abetted by China, is actively sponsoring agents of the banned Khalistan Liberation Force (KLF) to spread ‘Narco Terrorism’ in Punjab through utilization of unmanned aerial systems, called UASs or drones. These high-tech drones are engaged in the cross-border delivery of weapons and narcotics for anti-India activities.

The usage of drones by drug trafficking cartels, moving narcotics via drones, first started along the US-Mexican border but this nefarious activity is now being imitated along the India-Pakistan international border, and is devastating the socio-economic structure of Punjab.

There is a fine line that divides illicit drug trade, weapons trafficking, assassinations and terrorism. Drugs that get delivered through the drone method across the porous international borders are sold by local youth generating cash that hybridizes all these anti-national activities.

Top sources in military intelligence (MI) said that drone-assisted cross-border delivery of drugs and weapons along the northern border areas has escalated manifold in recent years. Along with paramilitary officials, we visited the remote villages in the otherwise-sleepy looking Tarn Taran district touching the Pak border. Villagers here admitted that drone intrusions have become a part and parcel of their daily lives. The most affected areas are along Gurdaspur, Ferozepur, Tarn Taran and Amritsar.

There is little or no doubt that this high-tech delivery of drugs in massive quantities has turned Punjab politics on its head. Earlier, this ‘free money’ coming from illicit drug cartels was being siphoned out by political parties and misused to increase political influence in the state. However, now it is working to the disadvantage of the perpetrators of this trade (mainly political parties and their leaders) as the public has realized how it is killing their youth and destroying the economic advantage that Punjab once had over other states. 

MI and BSF sources said the drone operations are orchestrated by Pakistan-based cartels which are using mainly Chinese origin drones. The most commonly used drones are the DJI Matrice 300 RTK, DJI Matrix 350 RTK or DJI Mavic. These are the three classic variants. The Matrix is a ‘next-generation drone’ with a live video transmission system visible from as far as 20 km. 

Interestingly, the flight data of captured drones reveals that they had not only been operational within Pakistan but had also flown in China. The confiscated machines had embedded chips containing coordinates that pointed to their presence of having been airborne in provinces of China as well as Pakistan.

The macabre plot in these drone-assisted deliveries also touches human lives, as weapons dropped in these deliveries are often used to assassinate high-profile persons who are working against the interest of these international cartels.

In fact, the Khalistani terrorists who are operating from the soils of Canada and Pakistan have actually been using this method to eliminate their enemies on Indian soil. Local political leaders as well as Army officers involved in anti-terror operations have been killed by these terror outfits.

India’s premier central counter terrorism law enforcement agency, the National Investigation Agency, which has been working on this unholy nexus, has charged hundreds of gangsters and terrorists of smuggling drugs, arms and explosives from across the border using drones. These gangs are indulging in ‘target killings’ using consignments of firearms, IEDs and AK47 rifles from across the border. They have attacked and bombed several army establishments, state police stations and killed local leaders especially during election times to create a fear psychosis amongst the common masses in order the derail the democratic process.

NIA sources told us that they still do not have a foolproof system to track the exact coordinates of those individuals and agencies that are dispatching these drones. The drone emergency response system has been launched in some areas, but more comprehensive counter measures are required to meet the challenge.

Central agencies admit that the spread of this “narco terror network” cannot happen without the connivance of the local police and powerful state politicians. In the last few years that AAP has captured power in the state, this nexus has grown deeper roots. 

The central agencies in India are worried about this narco terror for other reasons as well. Not only does this challenge the solvency of the state, but it has also begun to affect the moral fabric of society and has made drug addiction an epidemic, especially in Punjab.

‘Narco Terrorism’ is intimidating the common man in Punjab and destroying the state by pulling the youth into these illegal activities. The youth are then being used by international cartels to destabilize governments and societies. Illegal drugs, including heroin and marijuana, are grown and produced in neighboring countries and smuggled into India. Drug money is used to fund separatist and militant groups, contributing to ongoing terror and violent activities.

Drug trafficking is flourishing particularly in the state of Punjab for several reasons. The first of course is terrain difficulties as the riverine stretches along Punjab’s border are difficult to police effectively. The second is the ethnic and economic ties across the Radcliffe Line, contributing to smuggling activities. The third and most significant factor of course is that the nexus is too vast and spreading at an incredible pace using high technology which helps them to evade seizures.

Pakistan has accelerated its efforts to push narcotics, especially heroin. The objective is to create instability in the region, brainwash the youth, and weaken their cognitive behavior.

It is first targeting the youth with drugs and then using the drug-addicted youth to spread terror. The cognitive impairment caused by drug abuse makes these individuals vulnerable to manipulation and radicalization.

Narco-trade serves as a source of funding for terrorist activities. The proceeds from drug trafficking are used to finance militant groups operating in the region.

It is unfortunate that India’s proximity to the “Golden Crescent” (Afghanistan, Iran and Pakistan), provides easy access to narcotics.

It is also an admitted fact that corruption within law enforcement agencies, especially at the state level, is facilitating the operations of drug trafficking networks in Punjab. The lucrative nature of the illegal drug trade makes it an attractive source of revenue for terrorist organizations and political parties like the ruling AAP in the state.

There are serious security issues associated with this narcotics trade and criminalization of youth. The linkages between drug trafficking networks and terrorist organizations create a complex security environment with civilian-military conflict. It also leads to a drain in resources as security forces, intelligence agencies, and law enforcement entities need to dedicate substantial human resources, equipment, and funding to effectively counter narco-terrorism.

Pakistan utilizes drones to transport narcotics. There is a need to enhance anti-drone technology along the Line of Control (LOC) and the international border.

What is required is advanced technology integration. We need to invest in advanced technologies to enhance detection and interception of drug shipments, monitor financial transactions, and secure border areas.

With elections in Punjab barely four days away, it is anyone’s guess as to how free and fair the democratic process would possibly be. The state’s public exasperated by losing its youth to the drug epidemic will definitely not want to vote for those responsible. 

AAP’s Khalistan connections have been exposed again and again. Banned International Sikh Youth Federation’s chief operative head had worked for AAP during the last state elections. Many other hardliner terrorists were also seen actively campaigning for AAP candidates. Political insiders say that connivance of the state police with Khalistani elements ensures that a portion of this illegal drugs money flows into the coffers of the AAP.

Manoranjana Gupta

Manoranjana Gupta is a Journalist, TV opinion leader, and a Special Advisor for GDKP in India, at the Center for Digital Future, Annenberg School of Communication and Journalism under the University of Southern California.

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