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Editorial of the day (16th Apr): India’s Arctic Imperative

Context: India’s first winter expedition in the Arctic successfully concluded.

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  • In December 2023, four Indian climate scientists arrived in Oslo to start acclimatising for India’s first winter expedition in the Arctic.
  • The expedition was based at Himadri, India’s research station at the International Arctic Research Base in Svalbard, Norway.
  • Previously, the station only hosted missions during the summer. The winter expedition involved challenges such as extreme cold (as low as -15 degrees Celsius) and enduring polar nights.

Reasons for the Shift in Indian Policy

  • Scientific Data: Changed due to new data showing the Arctic warming faster than anticipated, and links between catastrophic climatic events in India and the melting of Arctic sea ice.
  • Economic Interests: Interest in using the Arctic Sea routes, particularly the Northern Sea Route, to reduce costs and improve efficiency for Indian trade.
  • Geopolitical Concerns: Concerns over China’s growing influence in the Arctic and Russia granting China expanded access to the Northern Sea Route, amidst heightened regional tensions influenced by the Russia-Ukraine conflict.

Historical and Ongoing Indian Involvement

  • India has been involved in the Arctic since signing the Svalbard Treaty in 1920.
  • In 2007, India launched its first research mission in the Arctic, focusing on microbiology, atmospheric sciences, and geology (the only developing nation besides China).
  • In 2008, India established its Arctic research base and was later granted ‘observer’ status by the Arctic Council in 2013.
  • India set up a multi-sensor moored observatory in 2014 and an atmospheric laboratory in 2016 at Svalbard.

Domestic Divides and Economic Strategies

  • Economic vs. Environmental Concerns: There is a division within India’s academic and policy circles regarding the implications of climate change in the Arctic for India, especially concerning mining for fossil fuels.
  • Proponents argue for pragmatic economic exploitation in the Arctic.
  • Sceptics caution against environmental damage and advocate for a balanced policy that considers the adverse impacts of maritime resource exploitation.

Potential for Collaboration with Norway

  • India and Norway have collaborated since the late 1980s on researching the impact of Arctic and Antarctic changes on South Asia.
  • Current Indian policy focuses on cooperation in green energy and clean industries.
  • Collaboration with Norway could be transformative, enhancing India’s involvement in the Arctic Council’s working groups on issues like the blue economy and responsible resource development.
  • India seeks to benefit from seabed mining and resource exploitation but faces the challenge of adopting a sustainable extraction approach.

Conclusion

  • India’s Arctic Policy includes six pillars: scientific research, climate and environmental protection, economic and human development, transportation and connectivity, governance and international cooperation, and national capacity building.
  • India aims to explore economic opportunities in the Arctic responsibly, with the help of Norway in designing sustainable policies.
  • Constructive and non-sensitive approaches to addressing geopolitical tensions in the Arctic are deemed crucial for both India and Norway.
Arctic Council
  • Established: 1996 as per the terms of the Ottawa Declaration.
  • Preceding Initiatives: Before its establishment, the Arctic Environmental Protection Strategy, unveiled in June 1991, laid the groundwork for the council by focusing on environmental protection in the Arctic.
  • Function: It serves as the primary forum for fostering cooperation, coordination, and dialogue among Arctic nations, indigenous communities, and residents of the Arctic.
  • Focus Areas: The council is dedicated to tackling issues pertinent to the Arctic, with particular emphasis on sustainable development and environmental conservation in the region.
  • Members: The Arctic Council comprises eight member countries with territories in the Arctic: Canada, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Russia, Sweden, and the United States.

Editorial of the day (16th Apr): India's Arctic Imperative_4.1

  • Decision-making Process: Decisions within the Council are made unanimously, requiring agreement from all eight member Arctic States and in consultation with permanent participants.
  • Permanent Participation: Six organisations representing the indigenous people of the Arctic region have been granted the status of permanent participants.
  • Observer Entities: Entities that align with the Council’s mission and have proven contributions, including financial support, may be granted Observer status.
    • The list of Observers includes thirteen countries with India among them, alongside thirteen intergovernmental and inter-parliamentary bodies, and twelve non-governmental organisations.

 

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