Taliban and Mexico Drug Cartels


    In Context

    • Taliban in Afghanistan may fuel the narcotic drug market in India and the world with help of Mexico Drug Cartels.

    What are Narcotic Drugs?

    • The World Health Organization (WHO) defines narcotics as any substance that modifies the consumer’s perception, behaviour and cognition, mood or motor functioning. 
    • As per an estimate, currently, more than 35 million people globally suffer from drug disorders.
    • The illicit trafficking of drugs is becoming an issue including in India.

    Background of the Speculations

    • Afghanistan and Mexico might appear distant from one another on a world map and are also separated by major historical, sociological and religious differences.
    • But there are a number of similarities between Taliban and Mexican Drug Cartels as listed below:
      • Drugs as Source of Finances
        • They both are united by the fact that they are financially dependent on drug trafficking
      • Extreme Violence for Political Power and gaining Territory
        • Further, they both use extreme violence to expand their political power and control of territory.
        • Ahead of the recent elections in Mexico in June, numerous opposition candidates were threatened and killed by the cartels.
        • Cartels were also reported to buy votes more openly than ever before.
      • Transnational Network
        • Both have a transnational presence as “drug-trafficking organizations”, as highlighted by renowned experts in 2009 to the US Congress
        • The expert group has pointed out dangerous similarities that have only increased since 2009.

    Golden Triangle and Golden Crescent

    Image Courtesy: Orfonline

    Golden Crescent

    Golden Triangle


    • Comprises Afghanistan, Iran, and Pakistan.
    • Principal global site for opium production and distribution
    • Affects Jammu and Kashmir, Punjab, Rajasthan and Gujarat due to 
    • Proximity with the Pakistan Border make these states as 
      • Potential Markets & 
      • Supply chain catalysts of Hashish and heroin.


    • Comprises Laos, Myanmar and Thailand at the confluence of Mekong and Ruak.
    • second spot after Afghanistan in illicit supply of morphine and heroin.
    • Myanmar produces 80% of the world’s heroin.
    • Affects North-East border of India


    • It was a traditional drug transportation route in the Chinese Colonial Era during the Opium Wars.
    • Closure of Balkan passage through Iran after the Iran-Iraq war forced the rerouting of the supply chain from India.
    • Earlier a route of supply of opium from Malwa to Karachi in the 1980s.
    • Sikh Militancy of the 1980s also aggravated the problem.


    • Many North Eastern Tribes have relations and residence on both sides.
    • Laxed laws regarding cross border movements led to easy inflow of narcotics.


    • Thar desert
      • vast barren piece of land
      • It is poorly guarded and has a low-security level.


    • Rough terrain and densely covered forests providing easy Hideouts
    • Unemployment, illiteracy and poverty


    Gravity of the Problem

    • Afghanistan, Mexico and Myanmar control 95%:
      • Roughly 95 per cent of the world’s opium poppies are cultivated in Afghanistan, Mexico and Myanmar
      • It includes all the illegal production and trafficking of heroin and other opiates that this entails. 
      • Experts at the US Congress hearing in 2009 estimated that 50% of Afghanistan’s GDP that year stemmed from the proceeds of the illegal drugs trade.
    • Involvement of State Officials:
      • In Mexico, drug cartels have the support of government officials. 
      • In Afghanistan, the Taliban is slowly taking over as a legitimate State Government.
      • In Afghanistan, according to US and UN documents, producers are in direct contact with the Taliban. 
      • They also were complicit with the government — including the US-backed one.
    • Ambiguous Attitude of Taliban:
      • Consumption of opiates is banned but not the cultivation and sale of opium poppies. 
      • According to a US State Department report released early in 2021, most opium production in Afghanistan was taking place in regions already under Taliban control or at least their influence.
      • It said that the Taliban derived a considerable income from the trade.
      • This fueled conflict, undermined the state of law, encouraged corruption and was also a contributing factor to drug abuse in the country.
    • Increasing Area Under Poppy Cultivation:
      • A UN report published in April drew a direct link between the Taliban and opium poppy cultivation. 
      • It said that the total area under opium poppy cultivation in Afghanistan had increased nearly 1.25 times between 2019 and 2020.
      • Moreover, though 21 hectares had been eradicated in 2019, none had been in 2020.
    • Chances of Collaboration:
      • The Sinaloa Cartel of Mexico is currently the fastest-growing one and controls the land where poppy cultivation is most profitable.
        • It is thus a potential rival for the Taliban.
      • But the fact that the cartel and the Islamist group serve different markets means that they could actually complement each other.
      • It would not be the first time that organizations, which are actually in competition, came together to increase their profits and political influence.

    Consequences of Drug Abuse

    • Disproportionately affects Poor:
      • The drugs bring lethargy at the workplace and due to loss of working ability, the poor are substantially affected.
      • Further, poor women become more vulnerable to exploitation.
      • People in prison settings, minorities, immigrants and displaced people also face barriers to treatment due to discrimination and stigma.
    • Women and Drugs:
      • 1 out of 3 drug users is a woman but women represent only 1 out of 5 people in treatment.
    • Increase in Crime and Domestic violence:
      • Anti Social Activities are fueled out of rage and lack of money to buy more and more drugs.
      • It was reported to have increased during the pandemic lockdown.
    • Disorientation of Youth and Students:
      • The youth and students are found to be more depressed and ill-focused due to drug abuse.
      • It is wasting precious human resources.
      • When the British wanted to subdue China, they started the illegal Opium Trade with it secretively.


    Steps Taken by India

    • The Narco-Coordination Centre (NCORD) was set up in November 2016.
      • Financial Assistance to States for Narcotics Control was revived.
    • Seizure Information Management System (SIMS)
      • A new software i.e. Seizure Information Management System (SIMS) will create a complete online database of drug offences and offenders.
      • It will be created and operated by Narcotics Control Bureau
    • “National Fund for Control of Drug Abuse” 
      • This fund will meet the expenditure incurred in connection with 
        • combating illicit traffic in Narcotic Drugs; 
        • rehabilitating addicts, and 
        • educating the public against drug abuse, etc.
    • National Drug Abuse Survey 
      • It will measure trends of drug abuse in India through the Ministry of Social Justice & Empowerment with the help of the National Drug Dependence Treatment Centre of AIIMS.
    • ‘Project Sunrise’ 
      • Launched by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare in 2016.
      • Aim: to tackle the rising HIV prevalence in north-eastern states in India, especially among people injecting drugs.
    • The Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, (NDPS) 1985: 
      • It prohibits a person from producing, possessing, selling, purchasing, transporting, storing, and/or consuming any narcotic drug or psychotropic substance.
      • The NDPS Act has since been amended thrice – in 1988, 2001 and 2014.
      • The Act extends to the whole of India and it applies also to all Indian citizens outside India and to all persons on ships and aircraft registered in India.
    • ‘Nasha Mukt Bharat’, or Drug-Free India Campaign focuses on community outreach programs.

     International Treaties and Conventions to Combat Drug Menace

    • Following treaties and conventions have been signed by India to combat the menace of Drug Abuse:
      • UN Convention on Narcotic Drugs (1961)
      • UN Convention on Psychotropic Substances (1971).
      • UN Convention against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (1988)
      • UN Convention against Transnational Organized Crime (UNTOC) 2000

    Way Forward for India

    • Keep a Check on Customs and Immigration Points:
      • Any country can not control the happenings of foreign nations but isolate itself by filtering the incoming goods and people.
      • India can upgrade its customs and Immigration management system to closely monitor the influx of drugs.
    • Sealing the porous Land Borders:
      • Few major areas of concern are Nepal, Myanmar and the Pakistan border.
      • Such hotspots must be identified with appropriate intelligence gathering and sealed for future infiltration.
      • Advanced border management technologies like BOLT-QT can be deployed.
    • Aware Citizens about the problems of using Psychotropic Drugs especially in Border Areas:
      • The drug market thrives because of customers.
      • If India can educate its citizens and ensure youth participation in the Drug-Free India Campaign, a lot of problems can be solved.

    Source: IE