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Ending narco-terrorism is easier said than done

By Vicky Nanjappa
April 28, 2014 12:58 IST
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Intelligence Bureau officers say the problem lies with the government treating narcotics and terrorism as two separate problems, with different law-enforcing agencies for each, and this ends up in defeating the purpose. Vicky Nanjappa reports.

At a recent election rally, the Bharatiya Janata Party’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi assured that he would put an end to narco-terrorism if he were elected to power.

How big the task is can be see from an Intelligence Bureau dossier on narco-terrorism that says Pakistan’s drug industry, which relies on the produce, has risen from Rs 75 billion to Rs 280 billion in the year 2013.

Narco-terrorism is terrorism which is funded by drug money. The free flow of narcotics from Pakistan into India and the rest of the world contributes to a major chunk of terrorism funds. All terrorist groups use this money to fund their activities and the problem has become extremely deep-rooted and would require India to seek assistance from several other countries in order to root out the problem.

Pakistan’s ISI, which allows the smooth flow of narcotics into India and the rest of the world, is largely reliant on the underworld. Underworld don Dawood Ibrahim, for instance, who was into narcotics trade while he was in India, had to assure the ISI that he would part with 30 per cent of his earnings in case he sought protection in Pakistan. Dawood probably has one of the best networks in the world when it comes to drug-smuggling; it not only has its fallout in India, but in the United States of America, Nairobi and Thailand among other nations.

For India to tackle the problem, the solution must first begin at home, says an officer with the Intelligence Bureau. Dawood is able to control this trade in India by proxy thanks to the fact that narco-terrorism has become so deeply entrenched that there are a good number of politicians who support this trade indirectly.

The infiltration by the drug trade into India is immense. Industrialists, bankers, politicians, real estate agents and stockbrokers all require a lot of money in order to keep the business rolling and the drug lord ensures that these people are well-funded. What these persons in turn do is enter into a liaison with some bankers and open up accounts in the names of non-existent companies. These accounts are used to park money obtained through narcotic trade and once the money is parked the same obtains a legitimate status.

Of late India has been witnessing another sort of problem and this is the money that is being invested in India through NRIs. In the past three years, almost 30 per cent of the NRI investments into India has gone unchecked and this has resulted in drug money entering the country. When India opened up its markets for more NRI investment, this was bound to be its flip side. Most of the investments came in freely without being checked and this worked like a charm for the ISI which tapped potential NRIs to feed this money into the Indian market.

At first the entire drug trade was based out of Bombay. However, over a period of time, the trade spread to states closer to the Pakistan border and also those areas with unrest. Punjab during the peak of its militancy had become one such hub for narco-terrorism. The problem persists even today, and there is a deep-rooted network which helps this trade.

The north-eastern states also have a similar problem. The drugs being pumped into the region are more through the Bangladesh border. During the peak of the Tamil Tigers movement in Sri Lanka, a large part of the trade had shifted down South. ISI agents utilised some of Tamil Tiger operatives to smuggle drugs into Tamil Nadu and then into the rest of South India.

Today Bihar has become a hot spot for this trade. Pakistan has been pushing its drugs first into Nepal where it is stocked up. It is then moved into Bihar thanks to the proximity to the border. From Bihar it is taken in trains to cities such as Bangalore, Delhi and Kolkata. This new route to smuggle the drugs has seen a lot of Naxal involvement, who are more than willing to help facilitate this trade in order to fund their activities. The Naxals have a relatively easier time in moving the drugs thanks to the immense local support they have.

Officers in the Intelligence Bureau told that the problem lay with the government treating narcotics and terrorism as two separate problems. The law-enforcing agencies for terrorism and drugs are different and this ends up in defeating the purpose. The biggest problem is that there is no coordination, and this is why the racket continues unabated. The other problem is the lack of political will to end the problem.

Officers say it is not easy to end the menace as it is probably one of the worst problems that India faces. It would require political will and a concentrated effort with the help of the International agencies to even begin solving this problem.

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