Opium production in Afghanistan has risen by nearly 50 per cent in the last year at an estimated value of about 68 billion US dollars, a recent United Nations report said. Coming on the eve of the withdrawal of the US forces, this is a dangerous sign for the world in general and India and the region in particular. Global action is needed to stop the drugging of a country in turmoil which can lead to Kabul becoming the global drug capital for raising funds for terrorism.
The threat is all the greater because Pakistan next door is already known as the epicentre of terror. Moreover, the fanatics on both sides of the Durand line have been waiting for the American and NATO forces to leave so that they can return to the days when the religious extremists had Afghanistan in their stranglehold and maintained a working relationship with the Pakistani army and the ISI as the shelter taken by Osama bin Laden within shouting distance of a military establishment in Abbottabad showed. It has long been known that opium is the main source of revenue of terrorists with addicts worldwide providing a reliable source of income. Although opium has medicinal value and has been used since ancient times as an anaesthetic and also in religious rituals, apart from being imbibed as a drug to induce a sense of euphoria, it is the chemical conversion of the alkaloid, morphine, in the seeds to heroin that is the biggest danger.
If all attempts to check the production of opium have failed, the reason is not only the fact that its cultivation in Afghanistan, Pakistan, India and Myanmar is an age-old tradition with an intricate camaraderie of farmers, traders and users, but also that Afghanistan’s dysfunctional nature makes it nearly impossible to enforce any preventive measures, not least because powerful Afghan warlords form a part of the drug cartel. The task before the world community is, therefore, immensely difficult.