Three tonnes of Afghan heroin seized in Gujarat

India seized the cargo at the port of Mundra in Gujarat. The drug was being imported as talcum powder. In 2020 Afghanistan’s poppy growing area increased by 37 per cent. As India boosted land border controls, smugglers shifted to sea routes.


New Delhi (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Indian authorities seized three tonnes of Afghan heroin yesterday in Mundra, a port city in the State of Gujarat.

Shipped from Kandahar, the cargo was ordered by a company in Andhra Pradesh and went through the port of Bandar Abbas in Iran, declared as talcum powder.

The Afghan government had briefly banned the latter’s export in 2015 because it was an important source of funding for the Taliban and Islamic State terrorists.

After the seizure, probably the largest in Indian history, the authorities detained for questioning some Afghans living in the capital.

According to the United Nations Office for Drugs and Crime (UNODC), at least 85 per cent of the world's heroin comes from Afghanistan.

Opium production is concentrated in three countries – Afghanistan, Myanmar and Mexico – but the last two represent only 7 and 6 per cent of global production respectively.

Last year, despite the US military presence, Afghanistan’s opium poppy growing region expanded by 37 per cent, from 1,630 sq km in 2019 to 2,240 sq km.

Under Taliban control, ephedra production also increased. This plant is used to make methamphetamines, which according to UN could become a new profitable market for the Islamic Emirate.

“They will send you in 100 kilograms of heroin and add 5 kilos of meth for free—there you go, give it a go. Just to get that user base started, and then they will start swamping you,” an international counternarcotics officer said, speaking on condition of anonymity to Foreign Policy.

A month before the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan, Indian authorities had expressed concern about the potential increase in the illegal drug trade in the region.

Along with Iran, India is one of the first countries where smuggled drugs arrive after passing through Pakistan. For this reason, Indian anti-trafficking agencies have boosted their intelligence networks.

Until recently, India’s porous north-western borders with Pakistan was the main drug smuggling route.

“Since surveillance was increased to prevent the sneaking in of drugs, smugglers are trying sea and air routes,” said an official with India’s Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB).

In fact, drug trafficking from Afghanistan has picked along the coast of Kerala in recent months.

According to Indian security experts, shipping, especially from Pakistan and Iran, should be monitored more closely.

Nevertheless, “It is impossible for agencies to check each and every fishing vessel that ventures into the sea daily. Our country has a vast coastline,” said G Shreekumar Menon, former DG, National Academy of Customs, Excise and Narcotics (NACEN).

Yet, “since drones are being used for terrorist activities, attempts to use them for drug trafficking cannot be ruled out,” he added.