current affairs - 2023-10-31

FM urges closer global cooperation to halt smuggling


Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman advocated for increased inter-governmental cooperation to combat global smuggling networks, with a focus on apprehending the masterminds as a strong deterrence.

What is the historical background of smuggling in India?

  • Colonial Era: During the colonial era, India became a key target for European powers, most notably the British East India Company and, later, the British Crown. The British placed tight trade controls and tariffs on products, which increased smuggling. The British government’s Salt Tax, and the subsequent Salt Satyagraha organized by Mahatma Gandhi, is a prominent examples of a smuggling-related civil disobedience action.
  • Opium Trade: During the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, India was a major player in the opium trade. Large amounts of opium were grown in British-controlled India and trafficked to China, contributing to the Opium Wars.
  • During the Indian independence movement, smuggling was frequently employed as a method of protest. It became a method for evading British taxes and prohibitions on a variety of items. The boycott of foreign commodities and promotion of swadeshi (indigenous) products were part of a larger anti-British colonial movement.
  • Post-Independence Era: After obtaining independence in 1947, India continued to struggle with smuggling difficulties, particularly along its porous borders. Customs enforcement and border security were among the steps implemented by the government to combat smuggling. Smuggling has persisted, with recent years seeing an increase in the illegal movement of products such as gold, electronics, and narcotics.
  • Modern Difficulties: In the modern era, India suffers difficulties relating to the smuggling of a wide variety of things, including narcotics, counterfeit goods, wildlife, and precious metals. These procedures have become more complicated as e-commerce and digital currencies have grown in popularity.

What are the impacts of Smuggling in India?

  • Loss of government revenue: Smuggling results in a considerable loss of government revenue due to the evasion of customs duties, taxes, and other charges on imported commodities. This can put pressure on government resources and restrict funding available for important services and infrastructure development.
  • Undermining Legitimate trade: Smuggling distorts market competitiveness and hinders legal trade by allowing the selling of cheaper, untaxed, or counterfeit goods. Legitimate businesses may face unfair competition, which could result in job losses and business closures.
  • Economic Distortion: Smuggling can distort the economy by artificially decreasing the prices of certain items, discouraging domestic production and stifling economic growth in specific industries.
  • Criminal Activities: Organized crime syndicates and smuggling networks are frequently involved in the smuggling trade. These organizations may also engage in illicit operations such as money laundering, human trafficking, and drug smuggling. This can encourage criminality and jeopardize public safety.
  • Quality Control Failure: Smuggled items are frequently of doubtful quality and safety standards. This can endanger the health and safety of people who buy these products.
  • Environmental Impact: Wildlife and exotic animal products smuggled into the country can contribute to unlawful poaching and habitat damage, posing a danger to biodiversity and conservation efforts.
  • Security Concerns: The earnings of smuggling can be used to fund insurgent and terrorist organizations, jeopardizing national security. Smuggling, for example, has played a role in financing insurgency groups in areas such as Jammu & Kashmir and the Northeast.

What is the World Customs Organization and what is the role of the organization in combating smuggling?

  • The World Customs Organization (WCO) is a multilateral organization based in Brussels, Belgium. Its major objective is to improve global customs and border administration, ensuring the safe, efficient, and coordinated movement of products across international boundaries. 
  • The World Customs Organization (WCO) provides a forum for customs administrations from various countries to communicate, share best practices, and develop international standards and agreements. Combating smuggling and illegal commerce is one of the WCO’s primary responsibilities. 
  •  WCO Mission: The WCO is committed to increasing the effectiveness and efficiency of customs administrations worldwide. Its goal is to enable international trade while also preserving national safety and security, protecting income, and combating illegal trade, especially smuggling.
  • Developing International Standards: The WCO is a key player in the development of international customs and border management standards and agreements. These standards provide a consistent framework for customs administrations to adhere to, making it more difficult for smugglers to exploit system weaknesses and anomalies.
  • The RKC : The Revised Kyoto Convention (RKC) of the World Customs Organization (WCO) provides a set of standardized and streamlined customs processes. By reducing customs regulations and documentation requirements, these procedures improve trade facilitation and limit the potential for smuggling.
  •  SAFE Framework of Standards: Another WCO initiative is the SAFE Framework of Standards to Secure and Facilitate Global Trade. Its goal is to improve the security and efficiency of the global supply chain, making it more difficult for smugglers to exploit loopholes.
  •  Capacity Building: The World Customs Organization provides capacity-building programs and technical assistance to its member countries. These programs assist customs administrations in modernizing their operations, implementing best practices, and improving their detection and combating of smuggling.

What is the way forward to handle the smuggling operations?

  • Boost International Cooperation: 
    • Encourage governments to work together to exchange intelligence, and best practices, and coordinate efforts to combat cross-border smuggling.
    • develop a coordinated response against global smuggling networks, and form alliances with international organizations such as the World Customs Organization (WCO), INTERPOL, and the United Nations.
  • Enhanced Border Security: 
    • Invest in current border technology and infrastructure, such as surveillance systems, scanners, and detection devices.
    • Create risk-based customs inspection procedures to focus resources on high-risk cargo and individuals.
  • Building Capacity and Training:
    • Provide customs officials and law enforcement agencies with training and capacity-building initiatives to improve their skills and knowledge in detecting and combatting smuggling.
    • To decrease the potential for corruption, and promote transparency and professionalism within customs administrations.
  • Legal Frameworks and Legislation:
    • Improve and update legal frameworks to address growing types of smuggling such as cybercrime, counterfeit goods, and illicit trading in digital assets.
    • Ensure that smuggling laws and punishments are adequately harsh and serve as a deterrence.
  • Risk evaluation and data analysis:
    • Create data-driven methods for identifying smuggling patterns, routes, and hotspots.
    • Detect irregularities in trade and financial transactions that may indicate smuggling using modern data analytics.


In summary, the Finance Minister’s remarks emphasize the need for global cooperation, actionable intelligence, and technical instruments in combating smuggling. They also highlight the difficulties presented by developing trends like as e-commerce and cryptocurrencies in criminal cross-border activities.