Home > News > Report
Drugs fund Kashmir terrorists
October 20, 2003 14:07 IST
Last Updated: October 20, 2003 14:14 IST
Money from the narcotics trade in Kashmir could be used to fund terrorism, and the trade flourishes in regions where militants are most active, reports the Christian Science Monitor.
'In a region where Kalashnikovs can be bought illegally for $100, Kashmir's growing narcotics trade presents a new threat to security,' it says. Most worrisome, Indian officials say, is that Kashmiri militant groups may soon have enough funds from narcotics to operate independently of their former patrons, Pakistan, 'which has officially banned and cut all ties to the 14-year insurgency,' the Monitor says in a October 20 report from Bandipora.
'"This is easy money for the militants, and they use it to fund their activities,"' it quotes Lieutenant Colonel Mukhtiar Singh, spokesman for the Indian Army in Srinagar, as saying.
While Indian officials admit their inability to gauge the extent of narcotics being smuggled into the state they say the fact that many heroin packets are confiscated in districts along the Line of Control -- which separates India and Pakistan in Kashmir --where opium cultivation is not common, indicates it is being smuggled in from Pakistan, which in turn probably gets it from Afghanistan.
Even without an outside source, Kashmir would be awash in narcotics, the Monitor says.
'In July, Indian customs agents in the Anantnag district of south Kashmir discovered an astounding 555 acres of opium poppies, with a potential yield of 10,000 kilograms of opium. This amount of raw opium would be worth about $2 million inside Kashmir; in international markets, once this is processed into heroin, it would be worth much more. New thinking, old problems. The raids were all the more surprising, Indian customs agents say, because they had been carried out in Bijbehara, the hometown of Kashmir's newly elected chief minister, Mufti Mohammad Sayeed,' the newspaper said.
It then quotes Indian Customs chief M S Kamra in Srinagar as saying that the greatest narcotics challenge is not what comes from outside, but what is grown inside Kashmir itself. Pointing to photos of white and pink poppies and tall stalks of cannabis being hacked down by a borrowed contingent of Indian Army soldiers, he says: '"These things can be seen from the highway, there is nothing concealed about it. There is a punishment of 10 years imprisonment for growing it, but it's openly done."'
Kamra believes, '"It's lawlessness. Complete anarchy. If you cannot control this, or you are not willing to control this, I don't think you can control harder problems like militancy."' Each case brings him closer to the nexus of narco-dealers and terrorists. '"In some of the cases, we found that people who indulge in carrying hashish have gotten in touch with people who need weapons,"' the Customs chief says. '"They become a link between militants and narcotics."'
'The militants get involved in narcotics for two main reasons,' the Monitor quotes Bandipora police chief Manzoor Ahmed as saying. '"One is to give to their fighters during suicide attacks, to give them courage and to take away the pain. The second reason is fundraising. Narcotics are very profitable."'