By Jai Kumar Verma*
The Pakistani military-controlled Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) is pumping illegal drugs of more than Rs.7500 crores (USD1100 million) every year into the state of Punjab in India. In doing so, the nefarious ISI is killing many words with a single stone. Firstly, the illegal money generated through drug trafficking is utilized in funding numerous terrorist outfits which carry out terrorist activities in India. Secondly, large numbers of rural youths, farmers and labourers have become drug addicts and which has adversely affected the strength, moral and capability of the younger generations in this otherwise prosperous state. ISI is also using smuggling of drugs for supporting the Khalistan secessionist movement.
The terrorists are suspected to have used routes and contacts of drug smugglers during the Pathankot airbase attack on January 2, 2016. In fact, drug addicts are used as couriers, support agents for ISI operations in India. ISI also uses drug addicts for transportation and concealing of arms and ammunition.
ISI sponsored terrorist attack on Pathankot airbase should compel Indian security agencies to tighten measures against narcotics smuggling as it is abundantly clear that the ISI had used the smuggling network for the terrorist attack.
It is unfortunate that Indian security agencies have ignored smuggling of drugs for several years and now the problem has become so acute that even security and law enforcement personnel are suspected of assisting the drug traffickers.
ISI has successfully created a powerful network which included drug traffickers, Indian Fake Currency Notes (IFCN) smugglers, organized criminal gangs, terrorists and greedy politicians and security personnel who assist ISI operations advertently or inadvertently.
According to analysts drug trafficking is a multi billion rupees racket and several powerful and influential persons are also involved in this illegal trade. The related problem of drug addiction is impacting the security personnel also.
At present the cost of one gram of drug is approximately INR 3000. Drug traffickers use Pakistani SIM cards, which are operative up to 50 KMs inside Indian Territory to mislead the Indian security agencies.
The analysts claim that about 20 percent of the money generated through drug trafficking is used in financing various terrorist outfits in the states of Jammu & Kashmir, Punjab and in the North-East.
It is interesting to note that when vigilance becomes stringent in the Punjab area, ISI uses Nepal and Bangladesh for smuggling of drugs. But nevertheless, Punjab remains a transit point for sending drugs, arms and ammunition to Jammu and Kashmir. In fact, India has become a transit point for the drugs produced in Golden Triangle and Golden Crescent, including various categories of chemicals used in purifying of the drugs are either procured or transited from India. India’s proximity with Afghanistan, which produces more than 70 percent of world heroin, is an important factor for using India as a transit point for drug trafficking.
Central and state governments should chalk out a strategy to eradicate the drug menace. Indian law makers must enact stringent laws which provide severe punishments to the offenders and judiciary should be galvanized in such a way that the cases are decided expeditiously.
The construction of fences at borders has reduced the flow of drugs into India, but there still remain points where borders could not be fenced due to dense forest, and riverine terrain. All these vintage points should be guarded by honest security personnel as recently few security personnel were caught as ISI agents. Electronic as well as aerial surveillance should be enhanced.
Drug smuggling is an international problem and to counter which India has signed bilateral as well as multilateral agreements with quite a few countries like Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Myanmar and also with Pakistan in 2011. According to these agreements signatories should exchange the information, should launch joint investigation to curb the drug smuggling but as all powerful ISI itself is involved in drug trafficking, India could not get any useful information from Pakistan.
The locals as well as Government should accept that drug addiction is a major problem and a vigorous de-addiction programme must be launched in the state. More de-addiction camps should be established and family members should not hesitate to send the drug addicts in the de-addiction centers. The drug addicts should be rehabilitated after the treatment.
Unemployment has considerably increased in rural Punjab and hence, a large number of youths are getting involved in narcotic smuggling which has become a big danger to the security of the country. There is a requirement to create more job opportunities in the state.
Smuggling of drugs is more dangerous than terrorism because terrorism is financed by drug money and number of times terrorists use routes and contacts of drug traffickers. Hence, terrorism can only be curbed if drug trafficking can be controlled.
Dawood Ibrahim and his notorious ‘D’ company are closely working with ISI in drug trafficking, financing terror outfits and carrying out terrorist activities in India. Now the emergence of Islamic State and formation of al-Qaeda in Indian Subcontinent (AQIS) are unfortunate events and ISI will take the advantage of these developments hence Indian security agencies should be more vigilant.
There are also reports that Boko Haram, a ruthless terrorist outfit active in Nigeria, and Dawood Ibrahim have decided to cooperate in drug trafficking in this African nation and even beyond. It will raise problems for the security agencies of the region especially for India which might become a bigger transit point in the underground market of drugs.
Drug trafficking is an international problem and thus, cannot be eliminated only by the security agencies. Active participation of the local masses is essential to eradicate the menace of drug trafficking both in India and abroad.
*Jai Kumar Verma is a Delhi-based strategic analyst. He can be contacted at [email protected]