- Intro – mention the rampant drug trade prevalent in golden triangle.
- Mention the threats to India & neighbourhood.
- Mention the recent steps taken by Indian govt.
The Shan state of Myanmar is the largest producer of illegal drugs within the infamous Golden Triangle—a tri-junction at the Myanmar, Laos and Thailand borders. Since 2010, however, production of the more potent and profitable methamphetamine has made the region, the world’s largest producer and exporter of meth.
Much of the precursor chemicals are sourced easily from across the border in China to the Shan state, while some amounts are also procured from India. Myanmar’s instability has encouraged expansion in production capacities, especially of yaba (meth pills), which can be produced with much less effort in cottage industries. Drug production in Shan state is an integral part of its political economy. Reports suggest an exponential increase in the retail price of meth as it reaches lucrative markets of Australia and Japan from Myanmar. The high-end markets for these drugs include Australia, New Zealand, Japan, South Korea, Russia, the US, and the UK, with profits in 2019 estimated at over US$ 71 billion.
Implications for India & her neighbourhood:
India’s long, porous land border with Myanmar provides safe haven for entry of drugs such as yaba and heroin. Consignments of heroin seized in Indian cities like Guwahati and Dimapur have originated from the Golden Triangle. Myanmar’s heroin & meth enter India at two points, Moreh in Manipur and Champai in Mizoram.
Precursor chemicals, like ephedrine, acetic anhydride and pseudo ephedrine, are sourced from places in South India and transported to Kolkata & Guwahati via Delhi before being smuggled across the border to Myanmar, highlighting domestic security gaps. Opium produced in Manipur and Mizoram is also transported to the Golden Triangle, where it is processed into heroin and sent back to India. The north-eastern states of Manipur, Mizoram, Nagaland, Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh are among the top ten states of India affected by drug abuse.
Increased drug abuse, spread of HIV due to shared use of intravenous syringes, and funding of insurgencies are some threats emanating from this drug trade. Reports indicate that the Myanmar military has formed an informal pact with insurgent organisations in India’s northeast like the Kanglei Yawol Kanna Lup (KYKL) and the Manipur-based People’s Liberation Army. The drug money is generally used to buy firearms by these groups.
Also, large amounts of Myanmar’s narcotics, especially yaba pills, have apparently entered into every “town and village” in Bangladesh through porous hilly borders. The Arakan Army, which is fighting the regime in the Rakhine state of Myanmar, raises funds for its activities through selling of yaba pills in Bangladesh. It is also reported that yaba pills enter into Bangladesh from India through various routes.
Measures by Indian government :
- Some recent measures by the Indian government to control drug trafficking include setting up of the Narco Coordination Centre in 2016, a mechanism under the NCB which was restructured in 2019 into a four-tier district-level scheme.
- An e-portal, Seizure Information Management System, was also launched in 2019 under the Narcotics Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, for better coordination of all drug law enforcement agencies.
- India has entered into 26 bilateral agreements to tackle the threat of drug trade.
- India’s drug enforcement challenge is accentuated by the country’s large size and a huge pharmaceutical industry. The northeast region faces shortage of staff and equipment to tackle the illicit traffic of drugs.
- Further complicating the problem is the increase in use of dark web and cryptocurrency by drug peddlers and buyers. A Bengaluru resident was arrested in 2021 for procuring drugs from the dark web. He had hacked bitcoin exchanges, poker websites, and company websites to pay for drugs. The anonymity of the dark web makes it difficult for enforcement authorities to track the movement of drugs or even seize money in cryptocurrency.
Trafficking of illicit drugs is a global problem and places such as the Golden Triangle are its hotspots. In absence of a social security umbrella, the marginalised & unemployed persons in developing countries have been greatly affected, and forced to take up unwanted or illegal work. In order to prevent the vulnerable population from falling into such network of narcotics trade, governments may introduce social security schemes and lay special focus on generating employment for them.