The intelligence agencies have just sounded an alarm over what has been a long-running problem in the northeast – drug trafficking.
According to a report, the Assam Rifles have cited intelligence inputs indicating the involvement of NSCN (K) in opium cultivation and trade a cause of concern.
The Kachin province, which shares its borders with both India and China.
The province, which forms Myanmar’s north and is connected to India with the Arunachal border, is a restive region where the local army has long been battling an insurgency led by Kachin rebels.
It is a declared terrorist organisation and has been involved in countless acts of violence against the Indian government and the people.
The NSCN (K) is a breakaway faction, which split from the larger and politically influential group NSCN (IM) founded by Isak Swu and Thuingaleng Muivah.
NSCN-K leader S.S. Khaplang (right) with a cadre.
Backing its statement the Assam Rifles referred to photographs uploaded by a senior leader of Khaplang group, Isak Sumi, which shows poppy fields in the background.
Security forces say that money from the sale of opium fuels the Khaplang faction’s terrorist activities. They are able to train cadres, run camps and hire mercenaries for their dirty work.
It is true that drug trafficking is a very serious problem in India’s northeast and NSCN (K) and other terrorist groups have a hand in it.
Khaplang with NSCn-K terrorists.
But one big problem for security forces is northeast’s proximity to Myanmar.
Four Indian states – Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur, Mizoram and Nagaland – sharing a border with Myanmar have a high volume of drug trafficking.
According to United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), opium production has gone up in the Golden Triangle by 22 per cent. An estimated 610 tons of opium was produced in Myanmar in 2011, making it the world’s second-biggest supplier after Afghanistan.
The drug flow to and fro Myanmar. The area shaded in blue shows the regions where opium is produced. Namrata Goswami
There has also been a rise in production of other drugs such as chemically created amphetamines and methamphetamines.
Myanmar has totally failed in checking the growth of the drug trade within its borders, and this has resulted in an unbridled rise in production of all kinds of narcotics.
Such has been the problem created by Myanmar that Bangkok accused Nay Pyi Taw of “narcotics aggression” on Thailand.
Policemen and villagers use sticks and grass cutters to destroy a poppy field above the village of Tar-Pu, in Myanmar. Reuters/Damir Sagolj
Due to its 1997-km border with Myanmar, China too faced a similar problem in the early 2000s, but Beijing’s shrewd political strategy ensured that the drug lords operating out of Myanmar shifted their base near Thailand.
India northeast, however, remains at high risk. A 2013 survey conducted in Arunachal Pradesh by the Institute of Narcotics Studies and Analysis (INSA) revealed that parts of the state were lost to opium cultivation.
Machikul in Manipur is one of the places where opium cultivation has made it look like Afghanistan’s opium belt. TheNorthEastToday
INSA had then warned that the cultivation of opium had risen alarmingly in Manipur and Nagaland too. Machikul in Manipur is one such place where opium cultivation has made it look like, as a report say, Afghanistan’s opium belt.
A poppy field in Machikul, Manipur. TheNorthEastToday
Opium cultivation is on which their livelihoods depend and many oppose any form of police action against their produce. In early 2015, police had to use force when narcotics control bureau attempted to destroy the poppy produce.
In its report, Assam Rifles stated that the involvement of NSCN (K) in drug trafficking is posing serious problems for the Naga society in particular and North Eastern region as a whole. If India aims to build closer relations with its South East Asian neighbours both strategically and economically, it needs to address this concern urgently.