India seizes 200kg heroin shipment on Pakistani boat

NEW DELHI (Reuters) - India seized 200 kg of heroin from Pakistani drug traffickers aboard a boat on the Arabian sea, a defence official said on Tuesday, in a US$15 million (S$20.24 million) haul that is one of the country's largest and comes as narcotic flows escalate from Afghanistan.

A joint navy and coastguard operation intercepted the vessel in Indian waters on Monday, apparently headed for the western state of Gujarat, Indian navy spokesman D. K. Sharma said.

"Using fishing boats to smuggle heroin is a new strategy by Pakistani smugglers," said Sharma, adding that the smugglers were using phones and GPS systems to allow trans-shipment to another boat.

Eight crew members from Pakistan were detained and were in police custody in Gujarat, he said.

The Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB), a specialised police force, said the confiscation of heroin on Tuesday was one of India's biggest recorded heroin seizures.

The NCB this year sought cooperation from the Indian military to fight the rise in heroin smuggled from Afghanistan via Pakistan through India's disputed state of Kashmir in the north and coastal border areas in the west.

UN officials in Kabul recorded a sharp spike this year in the amount of heroin seized from passengers trying to fly from Afghanistan to India.

Pakistani and Indian fishermen are frequently arrested by both countries because their Arabian Sea maritime border is poorly defined and fishing boats often lack the technology to know their precise location.

In January, Indian authorities intercepted a Pakistani fishing boat said to be carrying explosives off the western coast after a chase.

The boat was destroyed in a fire India said was started by its Pakistani crew, but a senior coast guard official later claimed that he ordered the destruction of the vessel.

India upgraded coastal security after 10 Pakistani gunmen arrived on a rubber boat in Mumbai in 2008 for a commando-style assault on two luxury hotels, a train station and a Jewish centre that killed 166 people.