• Two villages have been put on “high alert” due to an increased number of UAVs crossing the border between the two nations

New Delhi (Agencies): Border guards in India have shot down at least 13 drones carrying “illicit drugs” across the country’s border with Pakistan over the past week, the Hindustan Times reported on Monday. Two villages in the Punjab state, where the incidents have been reported, were placed on high alert in the wake of the intrusions, officials familiar with the matter told the outlet.

A Border Security Force (BSF) official said that drone crossings have been reported in the rural Tarn Taran and Amritsar districts that border Pakistan. He also suggested that a larger number of drones could be flying back after “sensing border guards had detected them.”

The first instance of a drone carrying drugs from Pakistan was reported in 2019. In the ensuing years, the number has grown significantly, with 64 such drones shot down so far in 2023 alone, the report claimed. According to Indian officials, in the past few years drone sightings have mainly been reported within 2-10km of the international border in Punjab.

On November 15, two suspected smugglers who were receiving drugs carried by drones were arrested by police in the Amritsar district of Punjab. They are currently being questioned. The duo was reportedly working for a local farmer who was allowing his field to be used as a “drop zone.” The owner of the land, who has since gone hiding, was also helping the smugglers by letting them use his house as a hideout, the Hindustan Times quoted another official as saying.

Drug abuse is considered a major problem in Punjab, which is largely known for its agriculture sector. A study conducted in 2017 found that every third individual in the study group was addicted to drugs other than alcohol and tobacco. It noted that “a significant association of drug abuse was observed with the male gender, illiteracy, and age above 30 years.”

The smuggling of arms, ammunition, and narcotics across its borders has become a major concern for India. In September, Home Minister Amit Shah announced plans to set up an “anti-drone” system to bolster security on India’s borders. He has not announced a timeline for the project, but he said it would be in place “soon.”

New Delhi is also setting up a drone surveillance system along its borders to ward off “surprise attacks,” Bloomberg reported last month. The system, which could cover all of India’s borders within 18 months, is expected to cost the country $500 million each year.

Meanwhile, along India’s eastern border with Bangladesh, the BSF has installed beehives as an additional layer of security that could deter those attempting to smuggle cattle, gold and narcotics, or cross the border illegally.

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