New Delhi: The mind-altering property of narcotics has been extensively used by religious extremists, criminals, smugglers and terrorists to isolate, indoctrinate and recruit hapless individuals. We need to destroy the narco-terror facilities on both sides of the border.

HISTORICAL USE OF ADDICTION FOR WAR: Opium was known to relieve pain and was used for surgical analgesia in Sumerian and Roman civilizations as long ago as 2100 to 1500 BC, and was later extensively used by Arab physicians. Opium was brought to China probably in the 8th century by Arab traders for medicinal use. Initially, poppy seeds, later capsule extracts and finally by the 15th century pure opium was used. Tobacco from Central and South America was introduced in Europe by the Spanish in 1528. It eventually spread to Java through Portuguese explorers where opium was mixed with tobacco (Madak). Addiction became a problem in China when the tobacco-opium mixture was introduced in early 18th century for recreational smoking in dens. In 1729, Emperor Yung Chen issued an imperial edict banning opium smoking and smoking houses. The British East India Company had a very adverse trade balance with China and had to pay in silver for Chinese silk, ceramics and tea. They were denied trading ports and concessions by China. Realising Chinese weakness for opium, the British forced farmers in eastern India to grow poppy, extract, purify and pack opium which was then smuggled into China for silver. In 1939, 20,000 chests of smuggled opium (about 1,400 tons) were destroyed  by the Chinese government, leading to the Opium Wars of 1839-42 and later 1856-60 between Qing-dynasty China and Britain. Under the Treaty of Nanjing of 29 August 1942, China had to pay a large indemnity, cede Hong Kong, and provide access to five ports for trading and residence. Other privileges like the right to travel in the interior of China for foreigners and Christian missionaries followed in supplementary treaties. France, US and other western powers soon demanded and received similar privileges. In effect they were protecting an illegal, profitable narcotics trade.

NARCO-TERRORISM: The opium industry shifted from the then North-West Frontier Province of Pakistan into Afghanistan during the 1980s. 90% of global illicit opium-heroin supply is now from Afghanistan, mainly from the poppy growing region of northern Helmand. The narcotics smuggled after processing in Pakistan under Taliban ISI supervision helps finance the terrorists and also enriches various handlers. In September this year, 3,004 kg of heroin was seized at Mundra port from a container from Kandahar in Afghanistan to a firm in Vijayawada, routed through Pakistan in a ship originating from Iran’s Bandar Abbas port. Adani Ports and Logistics then decided to stop handling containerised cargo originating from Iran, Pakistan and Afghanistan, leading to protests by Iran. In the first half of this year, various agencies, including state police, excise, customs etc., have seized 2,865 kilograms of heroin and 4,101 cases have been registered as per provisional figures of the Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB). 3,835 kg of heroin was seized in India in 2020 in spite of the lockdown and travel restrictions. All these seizures are considered as only the tip of the iceberg. The World Drug Report 2021 by the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) warns about the increasing use of darknet for the sale of narcotics with distribution by unsuspecting courier services. A very detailed report with multiple images titled “Pakistan Ramps Up Drug Produce to Shore Up Flagging Incomes” and a related article, “Pakistan Thrives in Terrorism Export Business while FATF sleeps” dated 29 January 2021 is available at https://newscomworld.com/

DESTABILISING INDIA: Opium is very addictive and hence is strictly regulated in hospitals. Heroin can be injected, snorted, or smoked and is even more addictive, leading to uncontrollable cravings and is psychoactive (mind-altering). The mind-altering property of narcotics has been extensively used by religious extremists, criminals, smugglers and terrorists to isolate, indoctrinate and recruit hapless individuals, especially the youth for their nefarious activities including as suicide bombers. The Pakistan deep state is enabling smuggling of narcotics across land borders, by air and by sea, especially targeting Jammu-Kashmir and Punjab to get local recruits for violent and terrorist acts and also to cause civil unrest and social instability. The Chinese are encouraging narcotics smuggling from Myanmar into India’s Northeast for the same purpose. Targeting our youth is targeting our future and our security. Strategically important individuals or their children are targeted with narcotics to compromise them. Another prime target has been celebrities and influencers in India especially by mixing narcotics with alcohol so as to popularise and mainstream drug usage and addiction. Just like drug addiction ruins psychological and physical health, a narcotic epidemic will ruin our national financial, psychological and social health.

NEUTRALISE HANDLERS AND HELP VICTIMS: The leadership and security forces need to destroy the narco-terror facilities on both sides of the border. All political, social, religious leaders need to realise the gravity of the problem, who our true enemies are and their intent. They need to stop fighting each other and instead unite to fight the evil forces out to destroy us. Drug and alcohol-related misconceptions spread by social media need to be cleared and factual knowledge provided instead. Fight misinformation with information about addiction as a health rather than as a moral or youth issue. Emphasis should be on education, skilling and addressing mental health issues like loneliness, depression, lack of self-confidence, sense of hopelessness and dealing with peer pressure.

Dr P.S. Venkatesh Rao, MBBS(Vellore), MS(Vellore), DNB, FRCS(Glasg), FACS, FICS, FMAS, FAES is Consultant Endocrine, Breast & Laparoscopic Surgeon.