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Renewal of Indo-Pak travel links worries Narcotics Control Bureau

By Ehtashamuddin Khan in New Delhi
June 28, 2003 15:14 IST
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Officials at the Narcotics Control Bureau in New Delhi are concerned that the resumption of travel links between India and Pakistan will increase smuggling of narcotics in India.

While the Delhi-Lahore bus service is likely to start in July-August, there is also a possibility of the resumption of train service in the coming months, officials said.

An official at the NCB headquarters in New Delhi told, "Though the bus service is yet to start, we are preparing ourselves for hectic days to come. We have to be vigilant."

He said the border states in the north were the most preferred area for traffickers to smuggle in drugs, mostly heroin, into India.

He said, "Most of the trafficking was done through the train (Samjhauta Express) that crossed the border from Atari in Amritsar," adding, "seizure of unclaimed consignments (of drugs) are also common. There were one or two seizures from the Lahore bus too."

The bus stopped plying after about three year of successful service.

Though the trafficking continues through Jammu and Kashmir borders, officials say it was considerably reduced after India snapped all travel links with Pakistan after the attack on Indian Parliament in December 2001.

The official cited the example of the arrest of a person who had come from Afghanistan and seizure of 16kg of heroin from him at the Indira Gandhi International Airport in April.

The heroin, worth Rs160 million, was concealed in almond shells. Officials said the size of the almonds, which were bigger than usual, made them suspicious.

The NCB officials said they usually work on the input provided by the intelligence agencies.

The narcotics trade was also used to fund terrorism giving it a name of narco-terrorism. The local mafia was also allegedly involved in it.

However, drug trafficking had reduced substantially through this route after the removal of the Taliban regime in Afghanistan, where opium is produced in abundance, and particularly after the Kargil conflict between India and Pakistan due to which security along the borders were tightened, the official said.

Traffickers could use any route, including sea, postal and air, to send the drugs to India, he added. The drugs from Afghanistan are mostly smuggled into India through the border states of Jammu and Kashmir, Punjab and Rajasthan.

It is then sent to European countries and US through Mumbai, Delhi and the Tamil Nadu coast in southern India.

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Ehtashamuddin Khan in New Delhi