Drug-Terror Nexus: Pathankot attack

The recent terror attack at Pathankot has raised a concern over the imminent drug-terror cartel in the region. There is a  likelihood  of  arms and ammunitions pushed across the international border before the terror strike. The terrorist have entered the base on 1 January 2016 thereafter followed by an intense combing operation. The attack on Indian Consulate at  Mazar-i-Sharif in Afghanistan preceded the Pathankot air base attack and both these attacks pointedly confirm the hand of JeM (Jaish-e-Mohammed). Is the Border Security Force (BSF) not fully operational  in the region as Jammu and Kashmir is something that has to be seen. Is the emerging triangular drug-teror-money triad the probable reason for this lapse.

There is a flourishing narcotic network between Pakistan and Punjab. Lots of speculations on alleged  narcotic trade across the border to have played hand and glove in the attack.  Often drugs move at ease across the borders and then it is simply transported to  the mainland.  Despite Government measures to safeguard the border , this area continues to remain   primarily a conduit  for drug traffickers,  smuggling drugs and arms into India. There is huge money laundering and lobbying mafia which operates that could fuel the terror networks across the border.The border though heavily guarded continues to be a major apprehension for the Indian Government.

The drug-terror duality is growing menace and often terror groups tap this source as it is the most vulnerable and lucrative source.The combination of money traded against weapons could be a strong reason for the breach of security , thus synergising the    drug-money-weapons combination. The region is  famous for drug infiltration and notorious for heroin. Pathankot also has drug-deaddiction centre which could further testify this strong connections. Sprawling houses, multi-storeyed building dominate the area and could further act as a storage for the drugs before it reaches the market. There is a  noticeable youth population in Pathankot, who were possibly used in this racket. The attackers probably could have used this medium to transport heavy weapons across the borders.

There are challenges that India faces across the borders despite heavy patrolling and border fencining.  Due to geographical features there is no clear distinction or uniformity in this border creation.The 460 km long international border in Punjab is impenetrable and guarded. The recent terror attack at the Pathankot air base has raised major concerns on the border safety. There have been attempts made by the militant outfits to cross the border, a noticeable one was the gunning down of a militant who attempted to cross the border outpost in KMS Wala area near Ferozpur Sector of India’s Punjab on 5, September 2014. This confirms the fact that there are has been sporadic incidents of militants movement across the border.

The weapons used in the attack confirms that armaments  could have been transferred from Pakistan. There is a possible involvement of  several groups in this terror connection. The absence of latest technology to counter attacks could be one strong contending factors leading to security lapse. Several question remains unanswered, how efficient  is the  continuous and controlled operation across the border and the level of preparedness  in handling such terror strikes.

Priya Suresh is a research scholar with Takshashila Institution . She  tweets @priyamanassa.