- Being surrounded by Canada, Russia, Greenland, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Iceland, & USA. Arctic Region experiences extreme solar radiation throughout the year. These distinguishable features made it historically inaccessible.
- However, with climate change & global warming, this region has become more accessible. Arctic is increasingly becoming an area of geo-political, geo-economic and geo-ecological interest
Significance of Arctic region
- Untapped natural resource: Arctic region contains one-fifth of world’s undiscovered oil & gas resources, alongside platinum, gold, silver, iron, zinc, copper and deposits of methane hydrates (energy sources).
- Commercial fishing industry: Food security and commercial opportunity.
- Navigation potential: Melting ice will open new sea routes for open water vessels (not adapted for icebreaking) cutting distances and travel times
- Albedo: Arctic Sea ice acts as a huge white reflector, bouncing sun’s rays back into space, helping keep Earth at an even temperature.
- Thermohaline circulation (Global conveyor belt) Arctic helps circulate world’s ocean currents, moving cold and warm water around the globe.
- Permafrost of arctic region acts as a carbon sink.
- Biodiversity: Arctic region is home to more than 21,000 known species of highly cold-adapted mammals, birds, fish, invertebrates, plants and fungi and microbe species which are of immense value to the mankind
Challenges faced by the region
- Climate change: Arctic is warming at a rate of almost twice the global average. It will result in rising sea levels, changes in precipitation patterns, increasing severe weather events, and loss of fish stocks, birds and marine mammals.
- Militarization of Arctic: Short distance between two antagonistic powers (USA and Russia) led to militarisation of this region. This resulted in stationing of intercontinental ballistic missile systems, nuclear powered attack submarines and naval bases.
- Increased Chinese Presence: China unveiled itsPolar silk Road plan China has already ensured its presence in Arctic through Russian Yamal Liquified Natural Gas (LNG) project. Chinese subtle creep into the Arctic region is rising suspicion about its intentions
India’s Interests in Arctic region
- Climate: Changes in Arctic climate due to global warming can have impact on Indian Monsoon, water security and coastal erosion. Research in Arctic region is crucial for India. India already has a research base in the region, Himadri.
- Resources: Rich natural resources and minerals in Arctic region benefits manufacturing sector and ensures energy security. ONGC Videsh acquired stakes in Russia’s Rosneft new arctic oil project.
- Navigation: India plans to explore connectivity corridor between resource rich Arctic Region and International North South Transport Corridor (INSTC). India and Russia agreed to develop Chennai-Vladivostok maritime corridor.
India’s Draft Arctic Policy
India’s New Arctic policy seeks to enhance the country’s level of engagement with the region. It enunciated with five major areas of engagement:-
- Science & Research.
- Economic & human development cooperation.
- Transportation & connectivity.
- Governance and International cooperation
- National capacity building.
Salient features of India’s ARCTIC policy
- Strengthening India’s scientific R&D.
- Climate and environment protection.
- Economic and human development.
- Transportation and connectivity.
- Governance and international cooperation.
- National capability building for Arctic region.
National Institutions dealing with Arctic
- National Centre for Polar and Ocean Research (NCPOR), Goa under Ministry of Earth Sciences is the nodal institution for India’s Polar research program.
- India’s Arctic Policy will be implemented by an action plan and reviewed by inter-ministerial Empowered Arctic Policy Group.
- India has set up an underground observatory, called IndARC, at Kongsfjorden fjord, halfway between Norway and North Pole.
- India’s first Arctic research station, Himadri is located at Spitsbergen, Svalbard, Norway.