The Home minister of India inaugurated the BRICS Heads of Drug Control Agencies Working Group Meeting. It comprised of Heads of Anti-narcotic bureaus of the countries. Drug abuse is a major problem affecting all BRICS countries.
In accordance with the ‘eThekwani Declaration’ adopted during the BRICS summit in March 2013 at Durban, South Africa, it was decided to explore, besides economic issues, various new areas of cooperation among the member States, including drug related issues. It was decided that the heads of anti-drug agencies of the five member countries may meet regularly under the aegis of the BRICS anti-drug working group meeting.
The likely outcome of such meeting can be from two angles.
BRICS has been existing for a decade, but there was a feeling that the outcome had not been really tangible. And there was a danger that it may just become a talking shop. The 2013 BRICS meeting at Durban saw some very important decisions like the establishment of BRICS bank.
Drug was also becoming major problem for BRICS member as well as other countries. It was decided that one of the areas where BRICS members could focus their attention was drugs and anti-drugs policy.
Various actions can be taken in this area such as
how to win people away,
The international trade in drugs is estimated to be about 500billion dollars and more.
Aim of the meeting
To evaluate the drug abuse situation in the member countries and analyze the legislations of BRICS member states as well as devise modalities to share the best practices of enforcement.
This is one of the tangible outcome that BRICS as an entity has managed, other than BRICS Bank.
This tackles the problem of dealing with narcotics and drug trafficking but it is also hugely related to terrorism aspect which is affecting each of BRICS country.
Each country has its own uniqueness of suffering the problem.
Brazil has Columbia drug trade which is perhaps the worst in world. (Coca bush)
Afghanistan, Laos and Myanmar in India’s neighbourhood (UN report 2014- 60% growth in Afghan land for opium poppy cultivation since 2011)
China has terrorism in Xinjiang
Russia- has through Pakistan and Europe
South Africa had instances of synthetic drugs, party drugs, cocktail drugs where people of Indian origin were also involved
As per an estimate by western writer, almost 25 % of the ISI (Pakistan) funding to terrorists is through drug trafficking. Recently, in Pathankot attack, there were allegations that it was mixed up with drug trade and drug mafia and that is how they could enter India. However, an inquiry is still going on.
India is poorly situated in the sense that, west is ‘golden crescent’ and east is ‘golden triangle’. The usage in India is increasing, particularly in the border areas due to their porous nature, especially in Punjab and North East states.
Areas of cooperation
Given the geography and lack of continuity geographically, BRICS’s cooperation is important through focusing on synthetic drugs and money laundering, banking channel, information exchange etc. Terrorism is direct outcome of this industry.
Focus area 1: The synthetic drugs move as pharmaceuticals. India has lot of exports of pharmaceuticals and chemicals etc. to African and other countries. Such
Focus area 2: Money laundering channels should be targeted. The black money is converted to white money which is detrimental to economy.
The fact that such meeting happens show the level of pressure the governments of the BRICS nations face. All the countries have a large youth component, below 35 years. This group is more vulnerable to such areas.
Kinds of best practices used
Last point peddlers get in police net. The real movers or illegal trade get away. So to identify those people and isolate them, the countries have to go after them.
Transmission of infectious diseases such as HIV and Hepatitis ‘C’ and occurrence of drug overdose are potential risk factors that lead to a high level of mortality. The drug abused people have to be put into rehab camps so that they are not vulnerable to more life threatening diseases and in addition, improve their lives.
Society awareness programmes
Global cooperation for AIDS has been successful. It is not a menace now as it was a decade back due to the focused attention it got. The cause of spread, the prevention mechanism, taking care of patients etc. was targeted. Africa had a big problem, but now it has been contained due to education and preventive methods.
Similar tactics can be used to contain drug abuse.
Composition of members
Multipronged effort to contain narcotics problem. Hence, a plethora of dynamic representation was visible to understand the problem holistically.
Ambassadors of all countries
Officers from Department of Revenue (money laundering)
Ministry of Social justice and Empowerment (rehabilitation)
Ministry of Health and Family welfare (resettlement)
Ministry of home affairs (protection of border areas)
Narcotics Control Bureau (Anti-drug)
DG of all border areas
Heads of Intelligence Bureau and the Central Bureau of Investigation
Report of the meeting
Law and order: The modus operandi of drug carriers and masterminds, how they have been caught, what are his/her links, travel literature can be shared.
Revenue intelligence: Huge amount of money is getting transferred across borders and somehow it is getting done through banking channels. Hawala money is also there. However, Indian efforts to curb that money is increasing. Wherever there are tax havens holes, they need to be plugged.
Awareness programmes: To spread awareness with help of NGOs and other dedicated trusts/organisations, through counselling, rallying, media support, personal experiences etc. Also conduct lectures in schools and universities
Social welfare: Rehabilitation of drug addicts as most of them are poor and to bring them into society. Though not all are poor, it is important that correct examples are set for future generations.
Capacity building and training of personnel of enforcement agencies as well as rehabilitation and re-socialization of persons who were addicted to drugs.
A dedicated team for this issue from BRICS where they will be nodal people to monitor the drug routes. It is a global fight which requires coordination and cooperation by all member countries.
If such an initiative becomes successful, it can be represented on other international forums with greater voice
India and United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime Regional Office for South Asia are in the advanced stages of setting up a South Asian Regional Intelligence and Coordination Centre (SARICC) to further step up the international cooperation efforts in the region.
Connecting the dots:
Narco-terrorism is a global threat which has to be neutralised through dedicated approach by international platforms. Comment.
BRICS: an association of five major emerging economies. It started as a forum for future economic cooperation and for reforming Financial Institutions.
Asia’s two principal areas of illicit opium production