Drones, Darknets, and Dollars: Narco Terror Network Threatening India

by Antariksh Singh

In the shadows of innovation and criminal ingenuity, the drug trade has woven a complex web across India’s borders, with Pakistan emerging as a significant player in this illicit game. Unraveling the intricate threads of this narco-terrorism, it becomes evident that Pakistan not only facilitates the smuggling of narcotics into India but also exploits the proceeds to fund terror activities on Indian soil.

The National Investigation Agency exposed a chilling connection between the drug trade and terrorism. Funds generated from the sale of heroin were traced to operatives of the notorious Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), underscoring the nefarious nexus between narcotics and terrorism.

While traditional overland routes contribute to only 30% of the drug trade, the scale of narcotics infiltrating India is staggering. Heroin from Afghanistan, trafficked through Pakistan, finds its way into India, catering to both domestic consumption and international markets. The northwest coastline along the Arabian Sea has become a preferred route, exemplified by the seizure of 2,500 kilograms of methamphetamine worth Rs 12,000 crore off the Kerala coast earlier this year.

Synthetic drugs, such as methamphetamine or ‘glass’/’ice,’ are gaining traction due to their affordability and potency, posing an alarming trend in the drug landscape. The demand for these substances is met through the southern sea route, revealing the adaptability and diversification of drug trafficking methods.

In India’s Northeast, proximity to Myanmar, the second-largest producer of opium, has given rise to illicit drug manufacturing units. States like Manipur, Mizoram, and Nagaland have become hotspots for trafficking ephedrine precursors and processing heroin, transforming the conventional Golden Triangle into a more expansive “Golden Pentagon.”

The intertwining of pharmaceutical companies with transnational organized criminals further complicates the trafficking nexus. Instances of companies diverting licenses to produce synthetic drugs like Tramadol and codeine for non-medical purposes add a layer of complexity to the already convoluted drug trade.

The emergence of the Dark Web as a platform for drug transactions has seen a quadrupling of drug smuggling via couriers, parcels, and postal services since 2019. This coincides with the increased Dark Web activity in India, presenting a challenge for law enforcement agencies to combat this discreet form of trafficking.

The use of drones for drug delivery has become a recurrent concern, with Pakistan-based smugglers deploying smaller, more sophisticated drones to drop consignments into Punjab. These AI-assisted drones, manufactured by Chinese company DJI, underscore the evolving methods employed by traffickers to evade detection.

As the drug problem captures national attention, it is imperative to understand its far-reaching effects. The complex interplay of drug trafficking, terrorism funding, and social pathologies necessitates a comprehensive, long-term strategic approach. Efforts must focus on disrupting trafficking channels while addressing the public health challenges posed by illicit drugs. The fight against narco-terrorism demands a concerted effort to safeguard the nation’s well-being and security.

Antariksh Singh

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