India: INCB Annual Report 2023 highlights linkages between drug trade, terrorism and the Internet 

New Delhi, India/15 April 2024: The International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) Annual Report 2023 has provided a comprehensive overview of the drug trade landscape in South Asia, shedding light on the evolving challenges posed by drug trafficking, terrorism, and the Internet.

With nearly 40% of the world's opiate users residing in South Asia, the region faces significant challenges in tackling drug abuse and trafficking. India, in particular, has emerged as a key market for opiates, with a rising number of trafficking incidents and illicit opium cultivation in its northeastern states.

The report also highlights the influx of heroin from South-West Asia, particularly Afghanistan, further complicating the drug control scenario.

A concerning trend identified in the report is the surge in online drug trafficking. Cyber-enabled drug markets, operating on the dark web and crypto-markets, are making illicit drugs more accessible than ever before. Moreover, the proliferation of illegal online pharmacies poses a significant challenge to drug control efforts.

Presenting key findings of the report at an event in New Delhi, Jagjit Pavadia, INCB Member, Chair of the Committee on Finance and Administration and Member of Standing Committee of Estimates, emphasized the need for evidence-based treatment for drug users, especially those from vulnerable demographics. She also highlighted the environmental impact of drug production and trafficking, including the harmful effects of spraying illicit substances on crops.

Government officials from various departments discussed the findings of the report, underscoring the nexus between drug trafficking and terrorism. Investigations indicate that proceeds from drug trafficking are increasingly being used to finance terrorism and support armed groups, fueling concerns about the rise of narco-terrorism in the region, experts highlighted.

Senior Indian Government officials from the Department of Revenue, the Directorate of Revenue Intelligence, the Narcotics Control Bureau, and the All India Institute Of Medical Science (AIIMS) participated in the report launch.

On rising incidents of narco-terrorism, the Deputy Director General of India’s Narcotics Control Bureau, Ms. Monika Ashish Batra, said: “Investigations indicate that proceeds of drug trafficking are increasingly being used to fund terrorism, and to support armed groups.”

UNODC Regional Representative for South Asia, Mr. Marco Teixeira, noted that the UN has been providing local officers with hands-on training sessions on interdictions, investigations, seizures and prosecutions.

“The collaboration between the Government of India, INCB and UNODC South Asia has allowed us to stay ahead of the curve by enriching officers' expertise with capacity building and training,” said Mr. Sunil Kumar Sinha, Principal Additional Director General, Directorate of Revenue Intelligence.

Professor Yatan Pal Singh Balhara of the National Drug Dependence Treatment Centre at AIIMS New Delhi emphasized a balanced approach, identifying effective prevention, treatment, and harm reduction as key to addressing the drug problem.

Mr. Shombi Sharp, UN Resident Coordinator for India, underlined how the efforts to combat drugs are inter-connected to broader initiatives aimed at enhancing public health, reinforcing the rule of law, and fostering peace and security.

The activity contributed to SDG3, SDG 16 and SDG 17:

(Photo Courtesy: UNIC India)

(In partnership with UN Information Centre for India and Bhutan and INCB)