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Narco–Terrorism a Threat to Nation’s Security

by Sanjenbam Jugeshwor Singh
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Narcotic trafficking, the phenomenon, which started as an organised cross border crime has now emerged as a threat to nation states because of its diabolic alliance with terrorist groups. The Golden Crescent is the largest producer of illicit opium. Afghanistan and Pakistan alone shared nearly 6000 metric tons of the total illicit production in 1999. It is a matter of serious concern to India, because these drugs are the major source for funding Pak-sponsored terrorism in this country. And also because India is the only licit supplier of opium to the international pharmaceutical industry, which generates approximately Rupees 209, crores per annum (1999) as revenue from export. The economy of Pak-Afghan frontier is dependent on the production of poppy and cannabis. The drug money is being floated in an unorganised but systematic manner into the Indian money market thereby damaging financial institutions. Therefore, the illicit drug trafficking from Afghanistan and Pakistan threatens both the polity and the economy of India. Apparently, this demands serious consideration from both the policy makers and the law enforcement agencies before it gets too late for action. Narco-terrorism refers to the nexus between narcotics and terrorism. Since the sources of terrorism in India lie beyond the domestic frontiers. Afghanistan and the NWFP of Pakistan are the biggest producers of opium in the world, which generates huge sums of money in the international market. The drug proceeds are used by the Pakistan government and the non-government agencies to destabilise India. These two issues are vital in the regional politics of South Asia and the security environment of India.
Sponsoring terrorism is an expensive affair and money for killing, kidnapping and sabotage does not come through proper channels. It comes through illegal and unofficial channels. The market value of narcotic drugs is much higher than any consumer products in the world. It fetches voluminous amounts of money and that too in hard cash. For instance, one kilogram of heroin from the Golden Crescent that costs approximately one lakh rupees in South Asia fetches nearly a crore of rupees in the US market. The figure varies from place to place, which further depends on the law and order situation. The price for heroin originating from the Golden Crescent ranges from Rs. 30 lakhs to Rs. 1 crore a kg. It is worth noting that Pakistani heroin and Colombian marijuana are the most demanded narcotic drugs in the US and the European countries. The volume of money these drugs generate in the West is mind boggling. It is because of the enormous money involved in the illicit drug trade that terrorists have established links with drug traffickers, smugglers and underworld dons to meet the expenses for ‘operation terrorism’. The word Narco-terrorism was used for the first time in the US when drug smugglers in Bolivia, Colombia, Peru, Nicaragua and other Central American countries organised the illegal trade as a profession and ran a parallel government. These countries produce enormous quantities of cocaine and cannabis. As a matter of fact, the economy of this region depends on cultivation and production of cocaine and cannabis. Besides being a neighbour the US is the biggest market for narcotics. The growing population of drug addicts compelled the US government to respond to the situation. Its realisation, however, came much later i.e. when President Reagan decided to fight against the leftist movements in Latin American countries during the 1980s. Narco-terrorism became an issue for the first time during this period
The hypothesis that drug trafficking funds terrorist activities needs logical explanation and that logic is based on certain facts and figures. These are: The economy of narcotics producing countries is dependent on the illegal drugs trade. Unless they have an alternative economy the illicit narcotic drugs trade would continue irrespective of strict legislation. Afghanistan is the biggest illicit opium producing (4,600 per annum, 1999 of the world’s total 6000 metric tons) country in the world. Poppy cultivation is done in 18 out of the total 31 provinces of Afghanistan. The cultivation is done in an organised form under the Taliban controlled administration. Narcotic drugs are the most lucrative commodity that generates quick money without paper work. The business transaction is done in hard cash and no document is left as evidence for legal action. The drug proceeds are laundered through numerous legal and illegal financial institutions and petty business enterprises. Terrorism needs huge sums of money to carry out its operation. Since it is difficult to acquire that sum from official and legal sources, terrorists approach drug syndicates and underworld dons for cooperation. The criminal dons and drug smugglers too find the proposal attractive because it gives them an opportunity to collaborate with aspirants of political power (terrorists) and thereby gives them access to politics in due course of time. The criminalisation of politics is the result of the same nexus.
The Pakistani Drug Syndicate runs a parallel economy in connivance with political and military establishments to destabilise India. According to the UNDCP Report Pakistan’s heroin industry in terms of turnover is estimated at approximately Rs. 74 billion i.e. 5 per cent of its GDP of 1992-93, which is 20-25 per cent of the total estimated shadow economy. It also reports that Pakistan earned US $1.5 billion from export of heroin in 1992. These are some vital facts on the basis of which the nexus between narcotics and terrorism and India’s threat perception could be examined. Since Pakistan is the immediate source of terrorism in India, it is relevant to examine the narcotic drug trafficking scenario in Pakistan and its diabolic alliance with politics, the army and the underworld operators, mainly the narcotic drugs syndicates. This unholy alliance in Pakistan is the major concern for India’s security. Illicit drug trade is highly lucrative and a short cut route to acquire wealth and affluence overnight. It was easy to make money, but difficult to move the funds to their destination. The drug traffickers had to face major problems in transaction of the drug proceeds. There were very few banks to take the risk, though there are instances of banks involvement in monetary transactions of drug money. The dealers had to explore some ways for the movement of cash. Therefore, innumerable channels were explored and created by drug syndicates. Their unorganised but systematic method of monetary transaction is popularly known as money laundering.
Money laundering is defined as use of money derived from illegal activity by concealing the identity of the individuals who obtained money and converts it to assets that appear to have come from a legitimate source. The large sum generated from narcotic drugs has become part of the international monetary system. It plays an important role in the corporate sector and international monetary market. The black money is used to influence politics and economy. This money can buy politicians, fund elections, topple an elected government, take over business enterprises and destabilise an established politico-economic system. The cash accumulated from narcotic drugs trafficking is laundered into licit money through investments in foreign banks, real estate, hotels, and transport and entertainment business. More than banks, private financial institutions have helped drug barons to manage their finances. Switzerland, Hong Kong, India, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Thailand are among the important countries involved in money laundering activities in an organized fashion. Banking laws and lavish life style of the elite facilitates covert operations and monetary transactions of drug traffickers. Needless to highlight that South West Asia especially India, Pakistan and Afghanistan offer vast opportunity for money laundering. It is a known fact that the real estate boom in India during the 1980s and early 1990s was because of unprecedented investment in property business by Daud Ibrahim and his associates. Similar was the case of the entertainment industry in Mumbai, Daud Ibrahim & Co. emerged as the real financier for films and the music industry during this time. His gang dominated the money market for ten years by funding such business enterprises in Mumbai. The unholy alliance of drug smugglers, criminals, builders, film producers and petty business enterprises came to light only after the Bombay Blasts in 1993. Until then no one knew that illicit drug proceeds had already converted into legitimate business and government could do nothing about it as there was no document or paper, a prerequisite for legal action against the crime committed..
According to experts, the present turmoil/unrest in Manipur is exactly in the line of above discussion, i.e. the activities of Narco-Terrorism. It is well known fact that there is massive poppy plantation in the hills of Manipur especially in the Kuki dominated areas as well as the menace of drug trafficking and funding to the Kuki militants from the neibouring countries like Myanmar and Bangladesh. It is also discussed in length and breadth about the involvement of powerful politicians, top level police officers, and bureaucrats for their involvement in the drug trade and funding to Kuki militants during the election to win. It is reported that the Golden Crescent has now been shifted to Manipur with mass poppy cultivation in the hills along with innumerable drug manufacturing unit. The present state of uncertain misery of our people in far flung areas is the outcome of the unethical and immoral activities of so called public leaders. Narco-terrorism is highly manifested in Manipur now and it has become a great threat to our nations as well as our state’s internal and external security.
(Writer can be reached at: [email protected])

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