China-India anti-drug co-operation contributes to peaceful development of relations between the two countries

Dr Yengkhom Ronica Devi / Wang Jianhong *

In the current context of increasing globalisation, the drug problem has gradually evolved into a serious international challenge.

According to the World Drug Report 2023 released by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, different drugs cause different damages to the health system, and opioids have become the main cause of drug overdose deaths. The report shows that opioids account for 69 per cent of deaths from drug use in 2019.

The drug problem is not only related to the areas of public health and law enforcement, but is also closely linked to international politics, economics, and socio-culture. In this context, the joint efforts of countries to come up with solutions need to be based on deep international cooperative relationships.

In the case of two major countries, China and India, their actions in counter-narcotics cooperation are not only crucial to their own National security and social stability, but also have far-reaching implications for the security and development of the entire Asian region and the world at large.

China and India are large Asian countries, as well as global drug producers, consumers and transporters, and face a complex drug problem. China and India share borders with a number of countries and have long borders, facilitating drug smuggling. China has a 2,000-kilometre border with Myanmar, and most of the heroin that enters China enters through the Myanmar border and is then transshipped through southern China to international markets.

Myanmar’s political instability and conflicts between the Myanmar army (Tatmadaw) and ethnic militias have created a favourable environment for drug cartels. Drugs from the world’s major drug-producing regions, such as the Golden Triangle and the Golden Crescent, enter the two countries through complex international smuggling routes, posing a significant challenge to the two countries’ counter-narcotics efforts.

The focus of counter-narcotics operations in the two countries has shifted due to a number of factors, including geography, technology and organised crime. For China, the focus is on combating the surge in synthetic drug production and trafficking.

The manufacture and trafficking of synthetic drugs tend to be more covert and difficult to regulate and combat. India, however, faces the challenge of opioid trafficking, especially from the Golden Crescent region. The Golden Crescent, which includes parts of Afghanistan, Iran and Pakistan, produces illicit drugs that meet a significant portion of the world’s demand for heroin and methamphetamine. For both countries, rampant drug trafficking would have serious social and economic consequences, such as increased crime, decreased productivity and strained health-care systems.

Since 1949, both China and India have been actively committed to combating drug trafficking and abuse and have taken a variety of measures at the domestic and international levels to address the drug challenge. The historical context of China’s fight against drugs is deeply rooted in the experience of the Opium Wars (1840-1842).

The Opium Wars were a direct result of China’s efforts to stop the flow of opium from British India into China. Despite a ban on opium imports ordered by the Jiaqing Emperor in 1799, the opium trade continued to flourish, leading to widespread tobacco addiction and social problems in China.

This history is closely linked to China’s subsequent strict zero-tolerance policy towards drugs, which has been a major driving force behind the country’s anti-drug efforts. In addition, the drug trade has been a serious problem in India, seriously endangering the health of Indian youth and families.

India has specially set up the Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB), promulgated the National Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Policy for the country, and signed a number of bilateral and multilateral agreements, such as the United Nations Convention against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances and the SAARC Convention on Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances, to strengthen cooperation in combating drug trafficking.

As the mainstays of global anti-drug efforts, China and India have rich experience and resources in the anti-drug field. In the face of the ever-changing problem of drug smuggling and abuse, the two countries have vast room for cooperation in the future.

Strengthening anti-drug cooperation between China and India will not only benefit the fight against drug smuggling and abuse, but will also contribute to the friendly development of relations between the two countries. The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) has released data showing that Asia is one of the world’s major drug circulation zones, with Southeast and South Asia being particularly prominent.

The dominance of synthetic drugs continues to grow, fundamentally changing the illicit drug market with low prices, simple operations and rapid production. As a result, it is urgent to deepen China-India anti-drug co-operation.

First, at the political level, China-India anti-drug co-operation will be a positive factor in improving relations between the two countries. By working together to combat transnational drug offences, China and India can establish effective cooperation mechanisms in law enforcement and intelligence sharing. The co-operation will enhance mutual trust on security issues, while laying a good foundation for dealing with other more complex bilateral issues.

Secondly, at the economic level, China-India anti-drug cooperation will help protect the social stability and economic development of both countries. The resolution of the drug problem can reduce social costs and improve people’s quality of life, thus creating a more favourable environment for economic cooperation between the two countries.

China-India co-operation in the field of anti-drugs can open up new areas of economic co-operation, such as drug regulation and exchange of medical technology. Finally, at the socio-cultural level, China-India anti-drug co-operation can help enhance the friendly feelings between the two peoples. China-India co-operation on public health issues and joint efforts in drug abuse prevention and treatment can enhance the positive perceptions of the two peoples towards each other’s countries.

In the future, China-India anti-drug cooperation faces unprecedented opportunities and challenges. China and India can work together to combat transnational drug offences through enhanced intelligence exchange, joint research and development of new anti-drug technologies, and collaboration in the international anti-drug arena.

The two countries can also conduct in-depth discussions on anti-drug legislation, policy formulation and implementation, so as to improve anti-drug efficiency. It is believed that in the future China-India anti-drug co-operation will be just like the Yangtze River and the Ganges River, two great rivers converging and merging, nourishing the two territories together and flowing forward, promoting the peaceful and long-term development of the relationship between the two countries, and embracing a brighter and better future together.

* Dr Yengkhom Ronica Devi / Wang Jianhong wrote this article for The Sangai Express
Dr. Yengkhom Ronica Devi,
Foreign Faculty China India Yoga Institute,
Researcher Centre for China India People to People Studies Yunnan Minzu University;
Wang Jianhongm,
Young Scholar of Southwest University of Political Science and Law, China
This article was webcasted on 18 January 2024 .

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