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Smuggling down on Indo-Bangladesh border, up on Bhutanese side

Incidents related to smuggling of fertilizer and narcotics on the Indo-Bangladesh border fell sharply in 2016, but there was a compensatory increase in drug smuggling cases along India’s border with Bhutan and Nepal, according to data from the Union Home Ministry.

Fertilizers — which cost less in India because of government subsidies — are smuggled out, while drugs and narcotics — sometimes tracing back to Central Asia — are mostly smuggled in.

India has been constructing a barbed-wire fencing on its border with Bangladesh for over a decade to solve the issue of illegal immigration and ‘trade’.

The 3,000-km long fence was supposed to have been completed several years ago, but the project has been plagued by delays. It is now expected to be complete sometime late this year or early next.

Last year, the two neighbors also redrew their borders by swapping enclaves ‘trapped’ on either sides at the time of partition in an effort to straighten the border to make it easier to manage.

FERTILIZER

The biggest impact of increased border patrolling and fencing was seen in a sharp dip in detected cases of fertilizer smuggling.

In 2016, the total quantity of fertilizer seized on the Indo-Bangladesh border dropped to 587 kg from 6,249 kg in 2015 and 30,049 kg in 2014.

There was also not-so-abrupt drop in fertilizer smuggling cases along the Indo-Nepalese border. On this side, the total quantity of fertilizer seized fell to 70.65 ton in 2016 from 223 tons in the preceding year and 271 tons in 2014.

Unlike Bangladesh, India has a largely open border with Nepal and smuggling between the two countries is much harder to control.

DRUGS AND NARCOTICS

One of India’s biggest headaches due to its porous border with Bangladesh was the smuggling of drugs and narcotics, including Marijuana, Opium, Heroin and Brown Sugar (see chat on top).

The government of India has been putting pressure on its Bangladeshi counterpart to crack down on international drug and weapon smuggling networks that have been using its territory as a base for their operations targeting India.

The total quantity of drugs and narcotics seized at the Bangladeshi border by Indian authorities fell to 10.35 tons in 2016 from 16.66 tons in the preceding year and 15.33 tons in 2014.

However, there was a commensurate increase in drug and narcotic seizures along India’s border with Bhutan and Nepal during 2016, indicating that the networks may be ‘rewiring’ their operations as more of the Bangladeshi border gets sealed.

The total quantity of drugs seized along the Indo-Bhutan border jumped by nearly 5 tons to 11.46 tons in 2016 compared with 6.80 tons in the preceding year and just 1.74 tons in 2014.

Similarly, 4.01 tons of drugs and narcotics were seized along the Nepalese border, up from 1.41 tons in 2015 and 1.19 tons in 2014.

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