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Cross Border Drug Trafficking and Challenges to Internal Security of India

Cross Border Drug Trafficking and Challenges to Internal Security of India


  • GS 3 || Security || Internal Security Threats || Drug Trafficking

Why in the news?

India is a key crossroads for illegal drug trafficking. Opiates, cannabis, and amphetamine-like stimulants are still the most dangerous drugs in the region.

India and Illicit Drug Trade:

  • Biggest Hub of Illicit Drug Traffic: According to a UNODC report, India is one of the major hubs of illicit drug trade, ranging from age-old cannabis to modern prescription medicines like tramadol, as well as designer drugs like methamphetamine.
  • Drug Trafficking Routes: The Golden Crescent (Iran-Afghanistan-Pakistan) in the west and the Golden Triangle (South-East Asia) in the east are the world’s two largest illegal opium producing regions.
  • Golden Triangle: This term refers to the region that encompasses Myanmar, Laos, and Thailand’s rural highlands. It is the primary opium-producing area in Southeast Asia, as well as one of the oldest drugs supply routes to Europe and North America.
  • Golden Crescent: The Golden Crescent area of South Asia is a major global opium manufacturing and distribution center. Afghanistan, Iran, and Pakistan are all part of it.

National Survey on Extent and Pattern of Substance Use in India:

  • It was funded by the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment and performed by the National Drug Dependence Treatment Centre (NDDTC) of the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), New Delhi.
  • Citizens between the ages of 10 and 75 were questioned about substance usage in the study, which was performed across India. According to the report, 5.7 crore individuals in the country suffer from alcohol-related issues.
  • Alcohol, cannabis (bhang and ganja/charas), opioids (opium, heroin, and prescription opioids), cocaine, amphetamine-type stimulants (ATS), sedatives, inhalants, and hallucinogens were among the substances investigated.

Menace of drug business in India:

  • Drug traffickers: India has evolved into a crossroads for people trafficking from other countries. Cocaine is not just supplied to India; drug traffickers utilize this strategy to reach other countries as well.
  • Thailand, Laos, and Myanmar are separated by the Golden Triangle, which is formed by the confluence of the Ruak and Mekong Rivers. According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, opium production has grown by 22% in the Golden Triangle (UNODC).
  • Golden Crescent: One of Asia’s two primary zones of illegal opium production is the Golden Crescent, which is located at the crossroads of Central, South, and Western Asia (the other being the Golden Triangle). The mountainous peripheries of three nations define the crescent: Afghanistan, Iran, and Pakistan.
  • Trafficking of narcotics: India has been vulnerable to the trafficking of narcotics and drugs made in these regions, such as heroin, hashish, and synthetic compounds, due to its closeness to the Golden Crescent and Golden Triangle.
  • Smuggling of heroin: The Golden Crescent has been the country’s main source of smuggled heroin since the early 1980s, when traffickers began rerouting heroin from this region through India during the Iran-Iraq conflict.
  • Rising opium production in Afghanistan, increased domestic demand in India, and collaboration of state government officials and border guarding forces, notably in the Punjab area, drove a boom in heroin trafficking.
  • Psychotropic substances: In addition to narcotics, India has experienced a significant growth in the use of psychotropic substances and medicinal preparations among addicts since the late 1990s.
  • Increasing availability of synthetic drugs: This tendency has been fuelled by strict narcotics and drug restrictions, as well as the rising expense of heroin and the increasing availability of synthetic drugs.
  • India also manufactures a huge volume of smuggled synthetic medications and precursor chemicals.

How is it a threat to national security?

  • Cross border drug supply: The unlawful movement of narcotics and drugs in both directions poses a serious danger to national security. The fact that drug traffickers have breached the country’s international boundaries suggests that the same methods may be used to smuggle in weapons and terrorists.
  • Drug traffickers and anti-national groups: Another serious concern is the link between drug traffickers, criminal networks, and terrorism. Security forces’ seizures of narcotics and guns at the border testify to a strong relationship between drug traffickers and anti-national groups.
  • Terror funding: Profits from the unlawful selling of narcotics and drugs are used to fund terrorist operations. Kashmiri, Sikh, and Northeast terrorists have utilized narcotics money to fund their “fight” against the Indian government.
  • Dysfunctional behavior: The widespread availability of narcotics and drugs motivates the domestic people to seek them out. Consumption of which leads to dysfunctional behavior, posing a law and order issue in society.

How is India finding a solution?

  • At border level:
    • Strengthening surveillance along the borders by deploying adequate numbers of border guarding personnel is another measure undertaken to ensure security of the borders.
    • Regular patrolling and electronic surveillance is carried out for detecting suspicious movements along the borders as well as to gather intelligence to effectively deal with drug trafficking.
    • In addition to border guards, personnel from several central organisations such as the Customs, the Directorate of Revenue Intelligence, the Narcotics Control Bureau, and the Central Bureau Of Narcotics as well as state organisations such as state police, state excise and state forest are also employed for the detection and apprehension of drug consignments along the borders.
    • For example: Manipur has established a special police wing, the Narcotics and Affairs of Border, in 1985, whose primary focus is to prevent drug trafficking in the state.
  • At Policy level:
    • As for multilateral agreements with neighbours, India is a signatory to the SAARC Convention on Narcotics Drugs and Psychotropic substances, 1993.
    • The convention provides for regular meetings of Home Ministers and Home Secretaries of the member countries as well as for interactions among the members of SAARC Conference on Cooperation in Police matters.
    • India has also signed the BIMSTEC Convention on Cooperation in Combating International Terrorism, Transnational Organised Crime and Illicit Drug Trafficking in, which provides for a legal framework to all the member countries to combat drug trafficking and organised crime.
    • India is also a party to the Pentalateral Cooperation on Drug Control, which focuses on the prevention of illicit trade of precursor and other chemicals used for the manufacture of heroin

Global Initiatives: The United Nations, through its anti-drug misuse arm, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), raises awareness, advises governments to avoid fueling the narcotics economy, and combats illegal drug trafficking disguised as legitimate pharmaceutical companies.

India has taken a holistic strategy to reduce narcotics and drug supply as well as demand. There are four components to the strategy:

  • Enacting legislation such as the Narcotics, Drugs, and Psychotropic Substances Act (NDPS).
  • Improving border and coast security by increasing patrolling and surveillance.
  • Obtaining cooperation from neighbors by signing several bilateral and multilateral agreements on the prevention of illicit drug and chemical trafficking.
  • Collaborating with non-profit groups to reduce the usage of narcotics and synthetic substances.

What steps should be taken?                                                          

  • Need of more intelligence investment: Why the Indian government should impose harsher punishments on anyone profiting from the drug trade. To track down the chain of people involved, more intelligence investment is needed.
  • Fight against illicit commerce: International collaboration will also function as a cure in the fight against illicit commerce, which is extremely hazardous to the nation’s demographics and internal security.
  • Establishing awareness efforts: Because the country’s youthful population is the majority, establishing awareness efforts in schools and colleges to prevent drug consumption will expand the efficacy.
  • Abolish the illegal trade: Other measures, such as drug testing, parental education, confidence building, assertiveness training, and illnesses caused by drug use, should be adopted to reduce demand and eventually abolish the illegal trade.
  • At the end of the day, it appears that the central government is taking effective efforts to combat drug smuggling into the country. In this regard, the Central Narcotics Department, in conjunction with the Border Security Forces, is taking appropriate measures.
  • Furthermore, the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment is drafting a National Drug Demand Reduction Policy that will address a variety of concerns.
  • The Narcotic Control Bureau has the authority to regulate, control, and monitor the manufacture, distribution, import, export, and transit of any drug designated as a “restricted substance” by the government.


Despite these efforts, India has only had little success in preventing drug trafficking. One of the primary reasons why concerned organizations do not act with the haste necessary in apprehending drug peddlers and conducting subsequent investigations is the low priority given to drug trafficking prevention. Turf conflicts between agencies, corruption, intelligence failure, a lack of staff and equipment, inadequate drug detection training, and procedural delays are all issues that stymie the country’s drug-prevention efforts. Given the significant implications of drug trafficking for India’s security, it is past time for the government to pay considerably more attention to the issue and devise effective measures to close the gaps in its anti-drug-trafficking policy.

Mains oriented question:

Discuss the issue of India’s cross-border drug trade. What threat does it pose to Indian security? (200 words)