SAFTA could increase drug trafficking in region: INCB

Daily Times (Pakistan) | Sunday, March 04, 2007

SAFTA could increase drug trafficking in region: INCB

By Iftikhar Gilani

NEW DELHI: A negative fallout of the South Asian Free Trade Area (SAFTA) agreement could be an increase in the narcotic traffic in the region, said Dr MM Bhatnagar, member of the International Narcotic Control Board (INCB).

Releasing the annual report of the INCB, Dr Bhatnagar said that past experiences of free trade zones around the world had shown that they at times had become free zones for narcotic trade as well.

He asked SAARC countries to ensure the implementation of the SAFTA does not hamper measures to combat drug trafficking within the region.

Bhatnagar said with the increasing economic activity and growth in India, the drug abuse and the consumption of cocaine was on the rise amongst neo-riches in the country. “Available information suggests an emerging trend of increasing abuse of and trafficking in cocaine in South Asia. Particularly in India there have been increasing seizures of cocaine,” he said.

Bhatnagar said some opium and poppy husk continued to be diverted into illicit markets in India despite stringent measures. “Crude heroin manufactured from such diverted opium is trafficked and sold on illicit markets in India or is smuggled into other countries,” said the INCB report.

The report says that the state of Punjab has merged as a new hub for smuggling drugs into India. “This recent development appears to be connected with the increase in the licit and illicit cross border flow of goods and persons between India and Pakistan.”

Most of the drugs, particularly heroin, that are smuggled into Punjab are subsequently taken to New Delhi and Mumbai before being transported to other countries.

Further, in India drug abuse by injections has been the main factors behind the spread of HIV in some areas. The report has found relations between the drug abuse and spread of HIV in the northeastern state of Manipur.

The INCB has cautioned Indian government to remain vigilant against pharmaceutical companies. “Many of the pharmaceutical preparations subject to abuse are manufactured in India,” said the report, admitting that there were stringent laws in the country, but loopholes in enforcement allowed a diversion at all levels.

In most of the areas, buprenorphine is easily available for abusers for injection. Also cough syrups containing a high level of codeine is not only supplied to local markets, but also trafficked into Bangladesh and Myanmar.

Over past few yeas, the abuse of dextropropoxyphene has also increased significant in northeastern states. The drug is a synthetic pain reliever. Further, the Board has found evidences of ephedrine and pseudoephedrine being smuggled from India into Myanmar, where it is used for illicit manufacture of methamphetamine. India produces significant amount of these drugs ever year for licit use in industry.

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source: Daily Times