New Delhi: India has become the hotspot for drug cartels to source chemicals needed for illicit manufacturing of synthetic psychotropic drugs such as methamphetamine, a UN narcotics control agency said Wednesday.
"South Asia has become one of the main regions used by drug traffickers to obtain the chemicals needed for illicit manufacture of methamphetamine, namely ephedrine and pseudoephedrine," the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) said in its annual report for 2010 released at its Vienna headquarters.
"India is one of the main sources of psychotropic substances sold through illegal internet pharmacies," the 17-page INCB report said, in a direct indictment of the country`s narcotics control efforts.
Psychotropic substances are chemical compounds that affect the processes of the mind or body. Normally used in the diagnosis, treatment or prevention of diseases, these are also illicitly used for its effects on the central nervous system.
The INCB is the independent monitoring body for the implementation of the United Nations international drug control conventions such as the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs of 1961, the Convention on Psychotropic Substances of 1971 and the UN Convention against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances of 1988.
It said the law enforcement agencies in India seized 1.2 tonnes of ephedrine in 2009 and they increasingly uncover facilities, where methamphetamine destined for markets in other countries is illicitly manufactured.
The criminal networks, the report said, are increasingly targeting Bangladesh as a source of pharmaceutical products containing these precursor chemicals and pseudoephedrine from India is also formed into tablets in Bangladesh before being set to central America and the Carribean.
Pointing out that pharmaceutical products containing narcotics drugs and psychotropic substances are widely abused in south Asian countries, the report said 18,600 ampoules containing buprenorphine, a painkiller, were seized in Bangladesh in 2009, a significant increase compared to 2006.
It also observed that cannabis is cultivated on a large scale throughout south Asia and gave the Bangladesh example where 2.1 tonnes of the herb were seized by law enforcement agencies in 2009.
"The shortest route for smuggling Afghan opiates to Europe is through Iran. An estimated 37 percent of Afghan heroin is smuggled through the country each year, with the remainder going through Pakistan or through central Asian route of Kazakhstan, Krygyzstan, Tajikistan and Azerbaijan," the report said.
The Middle East, however, is the main transit route for Afghan heroin smuggled into the Arab countries, it added.
In a major warning, though, INCB observed that opium stockpiles in Afghanistan and neighbouring countries total some 12,000 tonnes, equivalent to two-and-a-half years of global illicit demand for opiates.
"The fact that illicit opium production decreased in 2010 does not mean that there will be a decline in heroin manufacture on the illicit market, as sufficient stocks of opium are available," it cautioned.