NEW DELHI: A population of 2.96 lakh tribals living in five districts along the Arunachal Pradesh-China border is a major threat to national security at a time when the Indian Army and China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) are eyeball to eyeball on Doklam. Eighty-five per cent of males in the area—the majority from Mishimi tribes—are drug addicts and traffickers. According to an Army report, Mishimis, who are hostile to India and had helped the Chinese Army in 1962 with information on Indian Army locations, may be aiding the PLA in the region in the same manner.
A new threat is that Chinese drug mafia, which is sending refined opium back into India to be sold on the streets, will expand its operations, aided by the Chinese government. The additional terror threat rising from the insurgency-sensitive region could make the state a tinderbox.
Intelligence inputs suggest that young Mishimis constantly share inputs with the PLA through relatives in China and Myanmar who are always on the move across the border. The military establishment fears that the vast number of drug addicts among Mishimis can be used by the Chinese against India. “We have strong apprehensions that local drug addicts work as agents for the Chinese to get information on the Indian side,” said an officer of the Arunachal Narcotics Department.
According to the state Narcotics Department, the four districts populated by Mishimis produced nearly 762 tonnes of poppy crop on 1,067 acres last year. This has gone into making Arunachal Pradesh the largest poppy producer in the country with 40 per cent of the total share. Intelligence reports note that commercial poppy farming is done even inside reserve forest areas making traffickers difficult to track and catch. “Eighty per cent of poppy goes to Myanmar, where the trade is controlled by Chinese drug mafia. It returns to India as refined brown sugar through the porous Assam-Myanmar border,” said a Narcotics Department official.
Agencies suspect that by flooding Indian markets with cheap opium, China will be able to strike deep into the heart of urban India. The Drug Enforcement Agency has noticed a surge in illegal poppy cultivation especially in Namsai, Lohit, Longding, Tirap and Anjaw districts sharing a border with Myanmar and China. The state Narcotics Department believes dense forests and low population makes the state a playground for traffickers of opium and heroin. As per NCB report, “Large tracts in this state are now being cultivated commercially by the influential people for extraction of opium gum
The border belt of Arunachal Pradesh is traditionally known for high-value medicinal plants and herbs. The local population sends the produce to China through Myanmar, since China is the biggest consumer. A recent report shared with the Union Home Ministry by the Arunachal State government cautioned that if the worrying trend is not checked promptly, “the situation may take a serious turn not only affecting national security” but also have an adverse impact on the health and existence of various other tribes in remote and inaccessible areas of Arunachal Pradesh. Both the Arunachal Pradesh government and the Ayush Ministry headed by Shripad Naik has proposed the utilisation of fertile land to cultivate herbs and medicinal plants.
State security and intelligence agencies also warn of a new terrorist threat from Arunachal Pradesh, clandestinely fomented by China as several border districts are prone to insurgency. The Naga faction of NSCN has reportedly recruited drug addicts from Changlang, Lohit and Anjaw. It is significant that poppy cultivation contributes to terror funding in Afghanistan.
Fatalities in terrorist violence in Arunachal Pradesh in 2016 were: 14 civilians, 88 security personnel and 165 terrorists. In 2017 till April, 10 civilians, 11 security personnel and 35 terrorists have been killed, according to information submitted by the state government.