India becoming a leader in illicit opium production: US
By Ela Dutt
WASHINGTON: India is becoming a growing producer of illicit heroin even as it is the world’s largest producer of legal opium, says a US report.
The International Narcotics Control Strategy Report for 2002, prepared by the US Bureau for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs, singles out Afghanistan as the largest opium poppy producer. It also says despite being the largest licit opium producer and the only country authorised to produce licit opium gum, “India’s strategic location, between Southeast and Southwest Asia, the two main sources of illicit opium, makes it a heroin transhipment area”.
“India is a modest but growing producer of heroin for the illicit market,” according to the bureau. The Indian government “continually tightens controls to curtail diversion of licit opium, but an unknown quantity of licit opium finds its way to illicit markets”.
India, with US assistance, is rigorously studying opium gum yields from legally cultivated opium. The objective of this effort is to develop as accurate an estimate of legally mandated minimum yields as possible, notes the report. India anticipates that requiring farmers to deliver to the government all the opium they are likely to produce is the best way to avoid diversion to the illicit market.
The US has a close and cooperative relationship with India on counter-narcotics issues. Drug control cooperation expanded in 2001, building on several new initiatives launched in 2000.
The State Department’s Bureau for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement provided increased commodities and training assistance to Indian drug enforcement agencies, with a $200,000 project signed with the finance ministry in September 2000. There is some evidence of growing international criminal interest in hashish production in Himachal Pradesh, though New Delhi does not believe this is a major problem, the report says.
India historically has been an important transit area for Southwest Asia heroin from Afghanistan and Pakistan and, to a much lesser degree, from Southeast Asia — Myanmar, Thailand, and Laos, and most heroin transiting India appears bound for Europe, according to the report.. “While there appears to be no significant level of increase in heroin trafficking directly to the US from India, both US and Indian authorities continue to target organisations involved in this activity.”
Indian-produced methaqualone (mandrax) trafficking to southern and eastern Africa continues. Although South Africa is rapidly becoming a larger competitor, India is still believed to be among the world’s largest known clandestine producers of methaqualone, says the report. As for Afghanistan, despite strong statements by President Hamid Karzai in January 2002 and a reduction during the Taliban rule of Afghanistan, that country has returned to being the world’s largest producer of illicit opium, notes the bureau. —IANS