Recently the European Union has inaugurated the European Ports Alliance to harmonize methods in the fight against drug smuggling and combating criminal infiltration in the bloc’s ports.

About the European Ports Alliance 

Parties to Alliance

  • The European Ports Alliance is a partnership between the European Commission, the Belgian Presidency of the Council of the EU, 16 EU ports, and sea transport organizations. 

European Union (EU)

  • It is international organization comprising 27 European countries and governing common economic, social, and security policies. 
  • The EU’s members are Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, and Sweden.

Launched at

  • It was launched on January 24, 2024, in Antwerp, Belgium. 

Objectives of Alliance

  • The main goal of the alliance is to fight drug trafficking and organized crime in EU ports, by enhancing security, cooperation, and information-sharing among all relevant stakeholders. 
  • The alliance is part of the EU’s broader strategy to tackle the serious security threat posed by drug trafficking and organized crime.

Supported By

  • The alliance is also supported by a Public-Private Partnership, which will help port authorities and shipping companies to protect their logistics, staff, and processes from criminal infiltration. 

Status of Drug Trafficking at The Global Level

  • The global drug trafficking market is estimated to be worth $32 billion, making it one of the most lucrative forms of illegal activity.

According to World Drug Report 2023.

  • One in every 17 people worldwide had used a drug in 2021, 23 per cent more than a decade earlier.

Global Consequences:

  • Addiction and Health Issues: Drug usage leads to addiction, dependence, and a spectrum of health problems, encompassing mental health disorders, organ damage, and heightened susceptibility to infectious diseases such as HIV/AIDS.
  • Violence and Crime: Drug trafficking underpins violence and criminal activities, manifesting in gang conflicts, territorial disputes, and systemic corruption, thereby destabilizing communities and compromising public safety.
  • Economic Strain: Drug addiction strains healthcare systems, resulting in diminished economic productivity due to the burdens imposed on public health resources.
  • Family and Community Disintegration: Drug abuse can rupture familial and community ties, fostering social isolation and eroding trust among individuals.
  • Environmental Degradation: The production of illegal drugs often contributes to environmental degradation, encompassing issues like deforestation, toxic waste, and water pollution.
  • Corruption and Instability: Drug trafficking has the potential to infiltrate and corrupt governmental institutions, thereby weakening governance structures and impeding overall development.
  • Conflict and Terrorism: Criminal organizations associated with drug trade can incite conflict and terrorism, posing a tangible threat to national security.

Consequences in India:

Geopolitical Vulnerabilities:

  • India’s strategic geographic location between the Golden Crescent (Afghanistan and Pakistan) and the Golden Triangle (Myanmar, Laos, and Thailand) renders it a crucial transit route for illegal drugs, particularly heroin.

Societal Ramifications:

  • India grapples with a substantial issue of drug abuse, with millions contending with addiction to opioids, cannabis, and synthetic drugs.
  • The communal use of needles and syringes among injecting drug users has contributed significantly to India’s HIV/AIDS epidemic, ranking among the largest in the world.

Economic and Social Costs:

  • Drug abuse in India exacts a considerable economic and social toll, impacting productivity, straining healthcare resources, and placing a burden on social welfare programs. The multifaceted costs extend across various sectors, necessitating comprehensive strategies for mitigation and prevention.

In India according to the latest report by the Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB), about 70% of the illegal drugs are smuggled into the country through the sea routes from Bay of Bengal and Arabian sea.

Factors Contributing to Drug Addiction:  

  • Dopamine Impact: Drugs target specific neurotransmitters, such as dopamine, a key player in the brain’s reward system. This manipulation creates intense euphoria, altering the brain’s chemistry and reinforcing addictive behaviours.
  • Diverse Origins: Both natural (e.g., cocaine, marijuana) and synthetic (e.g., methamphetamine, ecstasy) drugs can be highly addictive, depending on their specific interactions with the brain.
  • Legality Not Indicative of Addiction Potential: Addiction potential varies; legal drugs like tobacco and alcohol can be highly addictive, while some illegal drugs like marijuana may have lower addiction rates.
  • Curiosity and Peer Pressure: Initial drug use often stems from curiosity, peer pressure, or attempts at self-medication.

Positive Reinforcement:

  • Association with Pleasure: The brain associates drug use with pleasure and reward, reinforcing the behaviour through the release of dopamine.
  • Cycle Creation: This positive reinforcement establishes a cycle of seeking the drug to recreate the positive feelings.

Global Initiatives to Counter Drug Smuggling

United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC):

  • The UNODC serves as the central hub for coordinating international efforts against drug smuggling. Key programs include the World Drug Report, Global Synthetics Monitoring Program, and Container Control Program.

International Narcotics Control Board (INCB):

  • As an independent expert body, the INCB monitors the implementation of international drug control treaties.
  • Assesses countries’ compliance with drug control measures.

World Customs Organization (WCO):

  • The WCO collaborates with global customs authorities to enhance border security and control the movement of illegal goods.

Financial Action Task Force (FATF):

  • FATF establishes international standards to combat money laundering and terrorist financing associated with drug trafficking:

India’s Drug Smuggling 

Production Specifics:

  • Cannabis: Predominantly cultivated in the hilly terrains of Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, and the Northeastern states. Additionally, cultivation occurs in Andhra Pradesh, Odisha, and Tamil Nadu.
  • Opium: Golden Triangle states such as Manipur, Nagaland, and Arunachal Pradesh contribute significantly. Opium is also cultivated in Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh.
  • Synthetic Drugs: Operate covertly in remote areas of Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, and Telangana. 

Trafficking Routes:

  • Golden Triangle: Opium, originating from Myanmar and Laos, enters India through the Northeast. It is then either consumed domestically or trafficked to Europe and North America.
  • Indo-Nepal Border: Facilitates the smuggling of cannabis and hashish from Nepal into India, with subsequent distribution across the country.
  • Coastal Routes: Ports and coastlines are exploited for smuggling synthetic drugs, particularly directed towards Southeast Asia and Africa.

India’s Measures to Combat Drug Smuggling

  • The Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) Act, 1985: This act prohibits the production, possession, sale, purchase, transport, and consumption of narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances. 
  • Prevention of Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act (PITNDPS) Act, 1988: This act strengthens international cooperation in combating drug trafficking and enables India to fulfil its obligations under international drug control treaties.

International Cooperation:

  • UNODC: India actively collaborates with the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) in various initiatives, including training programs, information sharing, and joint operations.
  • Interpol: India is a member of Interpol and cooperates with other countries in intelligence sharing, joint investigations, and extradition of drug traffickers.
  • Bilateral agreements: India has bilateral agreements with several neighbouring countries for enhanced border security, information exchange, and joint operations against drug trafficking.

Way Forward

  • To enhance the global fight against drug smuggling, allocating additional resources and fostering increased cooperation among key initiatives like UNODC, Interpol, and regional collaborations is crucial. 
  • Simultaneously, addressing root causes such as poverty, inequality, and lack of opportunities is essential, significantly contributing to reducing the demand for illicit drugs. A holistic approach to social and economic challenges is necessary. 
  • Prioritizing preventive measures, including educational programs, and awareness campaigns.

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