Securing Borders, Disrupting Routes: India’s Battle Against the Drug Trade

The world faces significant challenges from two major drug trafficking routes, commonly known as the Golden Crescent and the Golden Triangle. The Golden Crescent, situated at the strategic nexus of Central, South, and Western Asia, primarily centered around Afghanistan, is responsible for producing approximately 8,000 tons of the world’s total opium output of 9,000 tons. Recent reports from a leading European publication indicate a significant decline in poppy cultivation by the Taliban, dropping from 233,000 hectares in late 2022 to just 10,800 hectares in 2023.

Meanwhile, the Indian Ocean Region has emerged as a critical transit route for narcotic smuggling. In a major operation in February 2024, the Indian Navy, in collaboration with Coast Guards, seized a substantial haul of 3,300 kilograms of various drugs, including Charas, Methamphetamine, and Morphine. Enhanced patrolling, surveillance, and reconnaissance efforts have disrupted these smuggling routes. Furthermore, India’s government has facilitated humanitarian aid to Afghanistan, sending 20,000 metric tons of wheat through Chabahar in 2023.

As poppy cultivation declines in the traditional Golden Triangle area encompassing Thailand, Myanmar, and Laos, there’s been a concerning uptick in illicit poppy farming in Manipur, India. Manipur has become a significant hub for drug production, with the state witnessing the establishment of multiple drug production centers. In response, Chief Minister N. Biren Singh initiated a war on drugs in 2018, targeting both production facilities and distribution networks. Notably, Myanmar continues to host substantial opium cultivation, spanning 430 square kilometers.

To combat the escalating drug menace, the Indian government has adopted a multi-faceted approach. This strategy involves targeting production centers to eradicate poppy cultivation, disrupting supply routes through rigorous patrolling and surveillance, and implementing border fencing measures. An example of this proactive stance is the decision to construct a fence along the 1,643-kilometer border with Myanmar, thereby curtailing the free movement that has facilitated illicit activities between the two nations.

The evolving drug crisis represents not only a security threat but also a significant social and economic concern for India. By addressing the root causes and implementing robust countermeasures, the government aims to stem the sale and distribution of narcotics, safeguarding communities and national interests alike.

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