This article originally appeared on VICE India.
India’s west coast is reportedly the new ‘favourite’ for Pakistan-based drug cartels to traffic drugs to Europe, Canada, and the United States. According to this report, the 1,600-kilometre coastline of the state of Gujarat is the key location to smuggle drugs because of its vast expanse covered with hundreds of unmanned jetties. In fact, since July 2018, Indian agencies have seized over 2,200 kgs of heroin in Gujarat’s coast, worth more than Rs 60 billion (approx. $839.9 million), all attributed to Pakistan and Afghanistan-based drug cartels.
Gujarat reportedly became a preferred spot because other traditional routes, such as the one around Iran, shut down after international authorities tightened vigilance. Earlier, the drug cartels chose what they call the ‘Golden Crescent’—referring to Asia’s two key opium-producing regions, which overlap Afghanistan, Iran, and Pakistan—to traffic drugs to the West. But this has now come under a close watch from maritime task forces of countries such as the U.S. and Australia.
This has been leading to Pakistani cartels increasingly looking to India as a trade route.
According to The Times of India report, instances such as a drug bust of 1,450 cocaine tablets at Ahmedabad’s international airport a few months ago show that smugglers are increasingly using Gujarat, by both air and sea, as their entry point to India. The biggest bust saw 1,500 kgs of heroin worth Rs 45 billion (approx. $629.6 million) getting seized from the ship-breaking yard of Alang, which, a Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) official told Asia Times, came from Pakistan.
Reports also point out that the bumper opium crop harvest of approximately 10,000 tons in Afghanistan this year—the highest over the last few years—may have accelerated the drug trafficking cases. “We only know about the large seizures,” said the NCB official. “If a fisherman brings five kgs of heroin along with 500 kgs of fish in his boat, it is very difficult to catch him. Despite the presence of the Coast Guard and Navy, it is not possible to track all the boats, especially Indian fishing boats.”
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