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Cannabis Thrives on Both Sides of Divided Kashmir

Photo by Nico Escondido

The disputed region of Kashmir, divided between India and Pakistan since 1949, has made scary headlines in recent months.

Pro-independence militants are stepping up attacks on the India-controlled side, and the region is a potential flashpo`int for war between the nuclear-armed South Asian giants.

But it hardly comes as a surprise that a cannabis economy thrives on both sides of the Line of Control—despite the best efforts to suppress it by both Indian and Pakistani security forces.

The Indian Police Service last week announced the arrest of Kashmir’s most-wanted charas smuggler at a checkpoint in the Tangmarg district, in the north of the India-controlled territory. The trafficker was named as Abdul Rehman Dar, but there is no reason to expect his fall to interrupt the illicit industry.

The region’s conservative Islamic press runs editorials scandalized by long-entrenched cultivation of bhang (cannabis) to produce charas (hashish), as well as khash-khash (opium poppy).

Pakistani authorities are meanwhile pursuing their own vigorous crackdown on cannabis, and last month boasted of busts across the coubtry.

Among the boasted hauls was a kilogram of hash, seized by agents of the national Anti Narcotics Force from a “drug peddler” in Gilgit. This is the Himalayan mountain fastness that Pakistan has administratively separated from Kashmir—a move long protested by India. A new international oil pipeline linking China and Iran is now planned to cross Gilgit on its way through Pakistan-controlled Kashmir.

So… A thriving drug trade, long-standing local tensions and international oil intrigues. All the makings of Asia’s next insurgency quagmire. Let’s hope it doesn’t happen.

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