Saturday, September 16, 2000

The sinister world of narco-trade
By Randeep Wadehra &
Amar Nath Wadehra

WHEN Hansie Cronje had decided to tell everything to the King’s Commission about match-fixing, he suddenly became mum after he reportedly received death threats from the South Africa-based narcotics smuggling syndicates. A media report dwelled upon Vietnam‘s emergence as the latest den of ‘Drug Dons’. Investigations revealed that their route led to South Africa via India, with the West as their final destination.

The prime source of most narcotics is the seemingly harmless cannabis,which has been instrumental in unleashing forces that have successfully established a global regime in international drug racketeering. This harmless looking plant has adversely affected various aspects of our lives — governance, sports, education and even entertainment (our film industry too has reportedly come under the narco-smugglers’ sway).


One usually associates the term ‘Shooting gallery’ with an innocuous sport. But it has sinister connotations too. In the USA, a shooting gallery is the place where junkies and drug fiends come together to go high on the "Magic Mushroom". Speed, uppers, downers, LSD, acid, angel dust, coke, horse, junk, black tar and dexies are some of the names given to one of the deadliest addictions known to mankind. The latest to hit the junkie market is "Yaba’ — a derivative of heroin that keeps one ‘high’ for a much longer period than Ecstasy.

Originally concocted by Nazi scientists to enhance the fighting capacity of their soldiers, this drug is now being produced on a massive scale in Burma and smuggled into the West via Thailand and Laos. Profits are more than 700 per cent of the cost of production.

Poppy — a native of the Mediterranean — belongs to the Papaver family. It used to be exported from Cyprus to Egypt as early as 1500 BC. Greek coins, pottery and jewellery, as well as the Roman statutory tombs carried the poppy leitmotif. Archaeologists claim that it was the Neolithic man who first began poppy cultivation. The Sumerians and Babylonians referred to it as a plant of joy.

With the passage of time, several variants of poppy like cocaine, morphine, heroin etc. entered the market. Some of them, like morphine, were useful for medical purposes while others like the heroin — a semi-synthetic concoction of morphine and acetic acid ‘invented’ by British researcher GB Worzhty — proved to be a dangerous substance. Narcotics soon became a dirty word in the lexicon of the law-abiding populace the world over. It is an open secret that drug-trafficking was encouraged, if not actually engineered, by various secret services like the KGB, CIA and the ISIto finance international terrorism. The Cold Warriors used the drug money to buy arms for turf battles in the Latin American, African and Asian countries. But the chicken soon came home to roost.

The USAreeled under an explosion of drug abuse-related crimes and ailments. Hepatitis cases spiralled upwards at a mind-boggling rate. This should not come as a surprise as Columbia, in Uncle Sam’s backyard, is the largest producer of cocaine and its heroin production too is rising rapidly despite the efforts of both the USAand Columbia to stamp out the menace.

The various Federal Laws like the Drug Abuse Offence and Treatment Act, 1972, had only a marginal effect in controlling the entry of narcotics into the country. In Russia, teenage crime revolves around drug abuse. Today, this menace has spread all over the globe. There is hardly any country where a parallel economy, and in several cases parallel government, is not running. Unfortunately, things have not remained static, affecting only certain facets of a polity. Narco trade is now financing various terrorist organisations. Thus a lucrative nexus between drug smuggling and gun running is, by its own logic, setting a trend that forces even the only super power in the world to react to rather than anticipate and checkmate the next desperate act of terrorists.

When the Soviets invaded Afghanistan, General Zia’s Pakistan turned to the USA for protection against the rampaging ‘Bear’. Huge supply of weapons was made available. Such has been the power of narcotics-driven war of attrition waged by the Taliban that the giant communist super power not only met its ‘Vietnam’ in this land-locked country, but also had to suffer the ignominy of becoming a helpless witness to the Taliban leaders’ visit to the President of Chechnya’s hideout near Grozny. What transpired between the Taliban and Aslan Mashkadov is not known. But after that visit there appears to be a visible hardening of attitudes of Arab leaders, prompting the European Union and the USAto set up their pressure on Yeltsin to negotiate a settlement with Mashkadov. Consequently, Russia announced a halt in its offensive on December 11, 1999 though subsequently it resumed hostilities.

Some of the arsenal and drugs meant for the Taliban were pushed into Punjab and Jammu and Kashmir, while Pakistani smugglers and gangsters patronised by the ruling elite appropriated the balance. A vicious circle of arms acquisition, narco-trade, domestic violence and cross-border crimes began. Indian gangsters were not far behind. With political patronage readily available, they too started spreading their network. In Kerala, Idukki district is notorious for the supply of ganja and related intoxicants. Similarly, drugs are readily available in Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Himachal Pradesh and the North-East.

Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh grow most of the opium in India. A large part of it goes to the licensed pharmacies for medicinal formulations. Yet a substantial part is diverted towards the manufacture of heroin and other illegal derivatives that command a great premium in international markets.

India is caught between two drug-trafficking centres, viz, the Golden Triangle on its eastern borders and the Golden Crescent on its western periphery. Thus the North-East is reeling under narco-terrorism and drugs-related diseases and crimes, while J & K has been in the throes of a mindless blood-bath for a long time.

Bombay, New Delhi, Hyderabad, Bangalore and Calcutta are the drug pushers’ Shangri-La. Mofussil towns and villages too are not unaffected. Slowly but surely,the menace is spreading its tentacles throughout the country. Consequently, we find the crime graph zooming through the proverbial roof with our polity facing the danger of disintegration.

According to some scholars, drug-driven insurgency dates back to the early 50s when Communists emerged as a major power in China. Some of the Kuomintang tribesmen retreated into the areas bordering Burma, China and Laos. These tribesmen maintained their subsistence and the supply of arms by growing opium and pushing it into the world markets. Similarly Afghanistan became a major narcotics producer in the Golden Crescent area. The impelling reasons were the same — to overthrow the Leftist regime and fight the Soviet forces.

Pakistan has turned subversion into a fine art. Faithfully following Kautilya’s dictum, "Miraculous results can be achieved by practising the methods of subversion", it has not only exported terrrorism financed by drugs to Afghanistan, Sudan and Chechnya, but has also managed to send the Indian security system into a tizzy by sneaking in trained desperados to unleash terror and mayhem on unsuspecting citizens in Kashmir, Punjab and reportedly in the South too.

Ever since the Mujahideen and Taliban trained by the ISI and patronised by the CIA became a threat to western, especially US interests, there has been a marked eagerness to find an arch-villain to focus their collective might upon. And Osama bin Laden fills the bill nicely.

While nurturing the likes of the Saudi millionaire, Uncle Sam failed to foresee that its protege is bound to become a Frankenstein’s monster that would turn upon its creator sooner or later. Afghanistan, bin Laden’s current ambuscade, is the largest grower of opium and its derivatives. Naturally, he has been painted as the arch villain who is out to destroy the civilized world with the aid of narco-terrorism. Reams of newsprint and hours of telecast time are being spent on educating the world how terrible this one-time US ally is. But the reality is that India had all along been warning against precisely such dangers, especially since 1992 when irrefutable evidence of foreign mercenaries’ presence in the J & K was found. But as usual India’s concerns were politely listened to at various fora and quietly ignored. The same countries allow Russia to pound the Chechens to smithereens, let off Serbia lightly on the issue of Bosnia’s ethnic cleansing and provide whole-hearted support to the East Timor separatists against the predominantly Muslim Indonesia. This is not to condone the atrocities inflicted upon the minorities in the said countries. Human rights are sacrosanct sans any exception.

The narcotics-driven terrorism has already found followers among Basques, the LTTE, and other disparate groups of desperados. A Christian terrorist in North Ireland or in the Basque territory is no different from his Hindu counterpart in Sri Lanka or the Sikh and Muslim extremists in India and other parts of the world. The probability of an addict getting hold of the nuclear button and triggering off the holocaust is bound to increase inexorably with each passing day, unless something drastic is done by the international community in a concerted manner to wipe out the drug menace.

Drugs and guns have become a lucrative source of illicit trade. To break this nexus, politico-administrative will power will have to be excercised globally. It is imperative to recognise the evil for what it is — a peril to human civilisation as we know it. There should be no mistake in understanding the potential danger of drug abuse, which goes far beyond social implications.

Today, in a world devoid of ideologies and frustrated popular dreams, there is marked rise in organised violence even in the orderly western countries. This bodes ill for all of us. For the optimist the process might be a great global churning that would eventually come up with a panacea for all the social, political and economic problems. However, the cost might prove to be a bit too high, and it would inevitably be the underdog — the faceless common man — who will have to foot the bill. Can we afford this?

Peace implies scope for progress and prosperity. However, it also can as easily become a camouflage for exploitation of the vulnerable sections of humanity. As a result, it will be difficult to combat terrorism merely with organised military responses. To fight fire with fire is to reduce the world to ashes. What is required is to go back to the fundamentals of the French Revolution’s idealism.

Let an equitable and just order be allowed to evolve by nurturing democractic polities. Thus is bound to have a multiplier effect.