ISI-led narcotics lobby focuses on India’s military (Sunday Guardian)
MADHAV NALAPAT New Delhi | 14th Jun 2014
ndia's narcotics lobby is intensifying its bid to recruit accomplices in the Indian military, especially its senior ranks. The objective is to expand the already-prevalent collaboration between elements of the uniformed forces and drug runners operating on the India-Myanmar, India-Nepal and the India-Pakistan borders. According to an individual connected with the trade, who is in the process of shutting up his business and relocating to Australia, "About 15 tonnes of heroin come through the Pakistan border into the neighbouring states, while another 20 tonnes get smuggled through the Myanmar border". He pointed out that the cost per kilogram in Pakistan was just Rs 76,000 and in Myanmar still less, while in India it was more than Rs 4 lakh. Heroin is a relatively high-priced drug favoured by some sections of the affluent in cities across India. An associate of his revealed that other lucrative lines were psychotropic drugs such as ATS, as well as more commonly available pharmaceutical products, such as ephedrine.
Another individual active in the industry said that the continuous police crackdown on relatively mild and indigenous drugs such as "bhang" and opium has opened the door for hard drugs, especially as "very senior police and other officials and well-known politicians provide cover" for such operations. He said that "legalising and monitoring milder and indigenous forms of narcotics would reduce the epidemic of hard drugs use in India". According to an Army officer, who was a supporter of former Chief of Army Staff V.K. Singh's cleanup effort within the Indian Army, "both the BSF as well as the Assam Rifles contain many bad eggs (rogue elements) who facilitate the smuggling of drugs from Myanmar into Manipur and Nagaland" for onward transmission to markets throughout the country. He warned that "the easy money from narcotics has tempted several officers, including some in senior ranks, to participate in the drugs trade" and that "such activity is completely being ignored by the MoD (Ministry of Defence)". The flow of narcotics is from the Golden Triangle of Laos, Vietnam and Myanmar "into the region's biggest market", India.
The security problem in elements of the uniformed services falling prey to the temptations offered by the narcotics lobby is the fact that the remote control for much of its operations is based in Pakistan. This sits within a context where the narcotics industry has dug roots deep within the establishments of states such as Punjab and Rajasthan, as well as the Northeast and major cities such as Mumbai, Hyderabad and Kanpur. The profits are immense. Indeed, the primary reason why the Pakistan Army is unwilling to accept civilian oversight of its operations is not Kashmir but cash. The narcotics trade in the region is controlled by elements of the Army, which use a part of the profits in order to fund its ongoing asymmetric warfare against India. Although estimates are difficult to come by, some within the military claim that the total expended in such operations touches $2 billion in some years, with "about 40% coming from the drug trade and 30% from profits in India (from illegal betting, share market manipulation and extortion) sent by affiliates of the ISI and its auxiliaries". According to these sources, the ISI has a network of affiliates, many in which belong to faiths other than Islam, who manage the trades for the network. "We have contacts in every government in India", was the boast of a colonel in the "shadow" ISI, or that part of the organisation hidden within the regular ranks of the Pakistan army.
The just-announced release of five Taliban leaders by the Barack Obama administration in order to get back a single US serviceman is being viewed with dismay by counter-terrorism experts, who regard it as a mistake on the same scale as India's release 14 years ago of Al Qaeda terrorists to facilitate the safe return of a hijacked Indian Airlines aircraft from Kandahar. "The ISI intends to use the year's time that the released Taliban leaders will be in Qatar to indoctrinate them into concentrating on India and Afghanistan rather than Pakistan, once they get back to Afghanistan in 2015", according to information received from across the border from credible analysts. By that time, US and other NATO forces would have withdrawn from Afghanistan, leaving behind a shambles of a state, with a military ill-equipped to face fighters rejuvenated by weapons and cash supplied by the ISI from its profits from the drug trade and from India. That is, unless India and other powers step in to ensure the defeat of the ISI-backed Taliban.
According to a senior commander, "the MoD seems in denial about the corruption of a well-placed few within senior ranks of the army". He pointed out that "there are officers who send more than one child to study abroad in expensive colleges", and that "some have used hawala channels to finance their children in settling down abroad and in buying houses and other assets, all without (these wards having) a clear source of income". An officer in an investigating agency said that "giving details to government agencies of cost of study and source of funds for dependents studying and relocating abroad ought to be made mandatory for all government officials, not just in the armed forces". Unless the MoD takes note of the problem of involvement in the narcotics trade of some within the military, the effect on morale and efficiency when the expected full-scale Taliban assault on Kashmir takes place by 2015-16 may be severe. "Corruption, including through involvement in drug trafficking, is an issue that has been ignored for too long", warned an officer, pointing out that "those such as (former General) V.K. Singh who pointed out such facts get very rough treatment from MoD even after they leave the military".