A sinister underbelly of international drug trafficking thrives in India, as it conceals a dark secret that transcends its borders. This is the narrative of India’s Golden Drug Silk Route, and high-stakes patronage that has ensnared powerful business magnates and under the aegis of Indian government officials reached the corridors of political power. States within India that have been involved with International Drug Cartels running illegal multibillion dollar business. As per UN backed International Narcotics control board INCB India has become a major hub for illicit drug and trafficking, India shared a major portion in global drug trade business worth today more than 650$ billion.
The Afghan Connection
From the opium fields of Afghanistan, under the watchful gaze of insurgent warlords, the illicit cultivation of opium poppies fuels the India’s drug empire. India’s insatiable demand for narcotics, Afghanistan is the primary source of high-quality heroin and opium.
India has launched a new trade route to landlocked Afghanistan by sea through Iran’s strategic Chabahar port, a move that bypasses Pakistan. Iran’s Chabahar port can be a natural gateway for drugs sourced from Afghanistan, a global supplier of narcotics, and routed by Indian drug syndicates. Enter Chabahar, the obscure port in Iran that conceals a gateway. Officially touted as a strategic trading hub, this port has, over the years, become a pivotal link in India’s drug trade. Concealed within the cargo containers and hidden among legitimate shipments. The drugs make their journey from Chabahar to the Adani owned Mundra Port of Indian shore originating from Kandahar and previously from Bandar Abbass port, evading the customs officials.
Table. Drug Seizures at Adani Mundra Port
|Date||Seizure Description||Quantity||Estimated Value (in crore)|
|Sept 2021||Largest seizure in India’s history||3000 kg||Over 21,000 crore|
|June 2021||Red-flagged cargo||300 kg||Unknown|
|July 2022||Seizure outside the port||75 kg||Unknown|
Table. Details of Heroin Seizure at Mundra Port
|Date||Seized Heroin Quantity||Origin||Value (in crore INR)||Seizure Description|
|September 13, 2021||3,000 kg||Afghanistan||~20,000||Concealed in talc powder bags during a joint operation|
Table. Chargesheet Details
|Date||Accused Count||Nationalities||Charges Alleged|
|16||11 Afghan, 4 Indian, 1 Iranian||Links with terror groups, narco-terrorism|
Table. Details of the Seizure
|Reason for Suspicion||Several parameters flagged|
|Cargo Origin||Bandar Abbas|
|Company Details||Chennai-based Aashi Trading Company|
|Trade License||Obtained only a year ago|
|Nature of Business||Allegedly trading in solar panels|
The Patronage of the Powerful
The Adani Group, India’s industrial business tycoon, has played a role that goes beyond the conventional confines of business. Reports from the underworld suggest that this powerful conglomerate, and accomplices, has facilitated the movement of narcotics through its vast network and logistical capabilities. The involvement of individuals in high places, shielding this nefarious enterprise from the prying eyes of law enforcement. India has a huge Pharma base which supplements the drug industry of India. Even the Indian congress party said that Gujarat coast has been the route for smuggling drugs onto India. There has been Indian state involvement in worldwide sophisticated drug peddling network.
The estimates of the size of India’s illegal drug business show that it has a volume of Rs 30,000 crore – extrapolating from the Rs 3,000 crore worth of drugs seized annually. Seizures making up roughly around 10 per cent of the trade. There has been an unprecedented seizure of 3,000 kilograms of heroin within the borders of India. Such a colossal cache of narcotics is an indicates the presence of a major crime syndicate operating with impunity within India. This staggering haul points to a web of corruption, collusion, and power that extends far beyond the purview of law enforcement agencies.
Proxy Games and Drug Money
There is a sinister connection between the drug trade and India’s expensive proxy games in the region, particularly against Pakistan. Indian agencies in Afghanistan laundered drug money to finance their clandestine operations. Funding covert activities to ensure chaos in the region, raising questions about its geopolitical maneuvers.
The Regional Enigma
The Indian drug nexus doesn’t stop there. India’s involvement in the drug trade extends to the state of Assam. Drug producers also use the remote areas of Manipur and Arunachal Pradesh for opium cultivation. Several mafia groups from Bihar and Uttar Pradesh have also begun cultivating opium in Assamese districts. State of Assam is used as a transit point by traffickers transporting drugs to other parts of India to Bangladesh. The nexus between insurgent groups, traffickers, and corrupt officials is exacerbating the drug crisis, threatening the social fabric and security of this once-peaceful region.
Inidia’s Golden Drug Silk Route is more than just a criminal enterprise. A web of deceit and complicity that spans nations, industries, and political spheres. The Narcotics Control Board (NCB) called Mumbai the cocaine capital of India.
Deceit and Complicity
Inidia’s Golden Drug Silk Route is more than just a criminal enterprise. A web of deceit and complicity that spans nations, industries, and political spheres. The Narcotics Control Board (NCB) called Mumbai the cocaine capital of India. The agency said that drug mafias from Nigeria and South American countries like Peru, Brazil and Chile have their tentacles in India, especially in Mumbai. The NCB revealed a dial-a-drug network being run at Palghar in to get doorstep delivery of cocaine after paying online in India.
Akshay Chhabra and Sandeep Singh – The Drug Lords of Ludhiana
In the city of Ludhiana India, a sinister empire was quietly emerging. Akshay Chhabra, a name that reverberates through the underbelly of India’s drug trade, accused of orchestrating an international drug syndicate. Sandeep Singh, his alleged right-hand man, operated in the shadows, orchestrating drug trafficking operations.
India’s Deepening Involvement in the Drug Supply Chain
India’s pharmaceutical industry, conceals its drug secret beneath its legitimate facade. While a significant portion of its pharmaceutical production serves legitimate medical and industrial purposes.
Precursor Chemicals – The Under regulated Pathway
Within the vast chemical industry of India, a loophole exists. The regulatory framework surrounding precursor chemicals. These chemicals, intended for lawful industrial use, find their way into the hands of illicit drug manufacturers. The production of drugs like methamphetamine and synthetic opioids has gained momentum as regulatory gaps persist.
In the labyrinth of India’s clandestine laboratories, synthetic drugs are born. These secretive operations churn out potent narcotics, posing a grave challenge to law enforcement agencies. The adaptability and secrecy of these labs make them elusive targets in the battle against drug production.
The Smuggling Saga
Drug Trade has strengthened in India, a small town in Manipur Moreh has become India’s Drug hub. The geographical location of Moreh it is considered the important part of India’s Look east policy. Moreh has emerged as the biggest drug transit point. India’s extensive borders and bustling maritime routes provide the perfect cover for drug smugglers. Corrupt government officials support the drug trade through Manipur indirectly, from providing sensitive information to cross border clearance. From opium to precursor chemicals, the illegal trade flows freely through these conduits. To adjacent states i.e. Myanmar, Bangladesh etc.
India’s Domestic Drug Business
Illicit opium cultivation takes place in India primarily in, Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Uttaranchaland Arunachal Pradesh, according to United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).
Drug trade in India involves the involvement of organized crime groups, especially at the retail level. High profit and less stringent sentences for drug-related offenses. Efforts towards drug abuse and trade management have not been successful, leading to the expansion of drug use and trade, Including the use of synthetic and derivative drugs in rural areas. Another drug used by terror groups is Tramadol. The Ministry of Finance, Government of India, has brought this drug under the control of the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act (NDPS) through a Gazette Notification was issued on April 26th 2018. Tramadol has a huge market in Africa, and India is a leading manufacturer of this drug. Vast quantities are smuggled out from India to African countries. The Italian Police seized a shipload of Tramadol, which they claimed to be sold to the Islamic State in Libya from India. The BBC reported the Italian Police as saying that the consignment had come from India for two purposes. One is to help finance Islamic State terrorism and secondary for use by Jihadist fighters as a stimulant. Italian investigators, the Tramadol drugs shipment were traced to be from an Indian pharmaceuticals company, which sold it for $250,000 to a Dubai based importer. Narco-terrorism in India, has indigenous and sources through drug trafficking and funding terrorism in the region.
India Producing Opium
Opium poppy is cultivated in three states of India: Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh – in the following 22 districts: Madhya Pradesh: Mandsaur, Neemuch, Ratlam, Ujjain, Jhabua, Shajapur, and Rajgarh. Rajasthan: Kota, Baran, Jhalawar, Chittorgarh, Udaipur and Bhilwara. Uttar Pradesh: Barabanki, Faizabad, Ghazipur, Mau, Lucknow, Raibareilly, Bareilly, Shahjahanpur and Budaun.
India’s drug supply chain continues to thrive, fueled by persistent regulatory gaps, corruption within regulatory bodies at upper echelons, and the relentless adaptability of criminal networks. The emergence of figures like Akshay Chhabra and Sandeep Singh has only scratched the surface of a much larger problem. The world had witnessed in the recent past, how India has become an international market of radio-active material. Indian state patronage in dangerous business of sale/ purchase of weapon grade radio-active material has further supported the flourishing Indian radio-active market. This indicate towards Indian government’s greed for easy money to further speed up its regional power ambitions and cause regional disruption, through Narco-terrorism.
Asma Khan Durrani is an Islamabad-based expert in Strategic Affairs. She is a student of Defence and Strategic Studies. She has done M.Phil. from SPIR Quaid-I-Azam University Islamabad. She has also been published internationally. She tweets @AsmaKhan_47 Mailed @ email@example.com