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Polar Silk Road – Burning Issues/Current Affairs

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•The Arctic is melting much faster than expected, and could even be ice-free in summer by the late 2030s, a report from the Arctic Council’s Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Program
• Previous studies had forecast an ice-free North Pole in summer by mid-century.
• Air temperatures are climbing, and so are water temperatures. This makes the ice melt faster


• The depletion of ice in the Arctic Circle, largely believed by scientists to be a consequence of climate change, has prompted a race to develop the region, with members of the Arctic Council staking competing claims for large portions of the area.
• However, China is a non-Arctic Circle state. Instead, it enjoys observer status in the Arctic Council, whose core members include Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Iceland, Finland, Russia and
the US.


• China recently outlined its ambitions to extend President Xi Jinping’s signature Belt and Road Initiative to the Arctic by developing shipping lanes opened up by global warming.
• Releasing its first official Arctic policy white paper, China said it would encourage enterprises to build infrastructure and conduct commercial trial voyages, paving the way for Arctic
shipping routes that would form a “Polar Silk Road”.


• China is expanding its “One Belt, One Road” initiative to satisfy a long-sought geopolitical objective: A claim to the Arctic.
•Increase trade with Europe and Russia
•Russia’s Natural Gas for China’s energy needs
• The Washington-based Arctic Institute, a polar security think tank, said that while China’s interest in the Arctic was concerned with “shipping shortcuts” and “investment opportunities,” it was unlikely to extend to defense interests.
• It is “doubtful at this stage that the Arctic figures heavily into the country’s plans for military or naval expansion, but China, like other countries, is probably keeping an eye on how the
world’s military powers react to the retreat of Arctic sea ice,” said the Arctic Institute.


• China’s newly announced “Polar Silk Road” evokes the memory of President Vladimir Putin’s remark about the  possibility to link the Beijing-led One Belt One Road project with Russia’s Northern Sea Route, which is likely to become one of major trade routes connecting Asia
and Europe


• The Ottawa Declaration named eight members of the Arctic Council: Canada, Russia, Norway, Denmark, Iceland, the United States, Sweden and Finland.
• The Arctic Council is a high-level intergovernmental forum which addresses issues faced by the Arctic governments and people living in the Arctic region.

• Germany, 1998
• Netherlands, 1998
• Poland, 1998
• United Kingdom, 1998
• France, 2000
• Spain, 2006
• China, 2013
• India, 2013
• Italy, 2013
• Japan, 2013
• South Korea, 2013
• Singapore, 2013
• Switzerland, 2017

•January 26 Polar Silk Road white paper, China asserts its right to sail the Polar route under the United Nations  Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), which guarantees freedom of navigation in international waterways. This is ironic, considering that China has rejected the international Permanent Court of Arbitration ruling that China is itself violating UNCLOS
in the South China Sea.

• Chinese officials have referred to their country as a “nearArctic state” before. Now it’s been enshrined in writing with Beijing’s stamp of approval.
• Climate change: China “earnestly fulfills its obligations under relevant treaties” like the Paris Agreement, and it encourages climate change education – unlike the climate-denying United States. A new word, “eco-environment,” is coined in this section.

• Himadri Station is India’s first Arctic research station
• located at Spitsbergen, Svalbard, Norway.
• The primary goals of India’s research includes research on aerosol radiation, space weather, food-web dynamics, microbial communities, glaciers, sedimentology, and carbon recycling.
• The United States Geological Survey estimates that 22 percent of the world’s oil and natural gas could be located beneath the Arctic

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