India’s Arctic Policy
Arctic Council States
About the Arctic Council
- The Arctic Council is the leading intergovernmental forum promoting cooperation, coordination and interaction among-
- Arctic States
- Arctic Indigenous peoples
- Other Arctic inhabitants on common Arctic issues
- Issues of sustainable development and environmental protection in the Arctic are discussed in this forum.
- It was formally established under the Ottawa Declaration in 1996.
Member States of Arctic Council
- The Ottawa Declaration defines these states as Members of the Arctic Council.
- The 8 States have territories within the Arctic and thus carry the role of stewards of the region.
- Their national jurisdictions and international law govern the lands surrounding the Arctic Ocean and its waters.
- The Northern regions of the Arctic States are home to more than four million people.
- Their health and well-being is on the top of the Arctic Council’s agenda
6 Permanent Participants- Indegenous People
Observer States – Arctic Council
India & Arctic
- India’s association with Arctic is over 100 years old, having been one of the original High Contracting Parties to the Svalbard (formerly Spitsbergen) Treaty in February 1920.
- The treaty was signed on 9 February 1920 and submitted for registration in the League of Nations Treaty Series on 21 October 1920
- Even today, the Treaty provides the right of visa-free access and conduct of economic and commercial activities to the citizens of India in Svalbard.
- India got a Permanent Observer status in the Arctic Council in 2013 along with other Asian States, China, Japan, Singapore and South Korea.
- India’s first scientific expedition to the Arctic Ocean in 2007
- Indian research station ‘Himadri’ at Ny-Ålesund was dedicated to the nation in 2008.
- India is the only developing country apart from China to have an Arctic research base.
- The Svalbard Treaty (originally the Spitsbergen Treaty) recognises the sovereignty of Norway over the Arctic archipelago of Svalbard, at the time called Spitsbergen.
India’s Arctic Policy
- India’s Arctic Policy, released by the Government of India on 17 March 2022.
- This fulfils a longstanding need for a clear articulation on a rapidly transforming Arctic.
- Arctic is warming three times faster than the rest of the world.
- This is leading to major transformation of global shipping routes and increased availability of mineral and hydrocarbon resources.
- India’s Arctic Policy is timely and is likely to provide a direction to India’s policy-makers on contours of India’s engagement with the region.
Pillars of The Arctic Policy
- Science and research.
- Climate and environmental protection
- Economic and human development
- Transportation and connectivity
- Governance and International cooperation
- National capacity building
How Should India Navigate it’s Arctic Policy
- First, India needs to advocate for sustainable resource development and management.
- Collaboration in terms of capacity, technology, monetary contribution and incentive-based management to protect the ecosystem in the region should hereon be structured.
- Both in the foreseeable and unforeseeable future, Russia will remain India’s strongest partner in the Arctic.
- Russia accounts for almost half of the Arctic in terms of area, coastline and hydrocarbons, with the region contributing 12-15% to Russia’s GDP.
- Vast eastern Arctic area, as it thaws owing to global warming, is giving Russia access to tens of millions of acres of agricultural land.
China’s Role in The Arctic
- In January 2018, China’s White Paper on Arctic policy called itself a ‘Near-Arctic State’.
- It also referred to trans-Arctic shipping routes as the Polar Silk Road, identifying it as a third transportation corridor for the BRI.
- China’s assertion has been highly contested by the US, which has demolished China’s locus standi in the Arctic declaring that “there are only Arctic States and Non-Arctic States”
- China has made significant investments in the Arctic, primarily in infrastructure and energy sectors, to the tune of US$ 90 billion, between 2012 and 2017
- Arctic’s ice meltdown and its geographical location ensuring shortest sea distance between America, Europe and North East Asia, is likely to transform the global maritime commerce.
- The opening up of Arctic shipping routes will result in huge savings of cost and time, with the major gainers being the North East Asian ports of Japan, South Korea and China.
- India’s Arctic Policy targets linking of International North South Transport Corridor (INSTC) with the Unified Deep-Water System (UDWS) of Russia and its further extension to the Arctic.
- The intent of connecting INSTC with UDWS 48 is commendable, and is likely to unlock trade potential of over US$ 250 billion.
- This can bring the much-needed progress, prosperity, stability and peace through the areas of the region that it traverses.
- INSTC is s a 7,200-km-long multi-mode network of ship, rail, and road route for moving freight between India, Iran, Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Russia, Central Asia and Europe.
- The route primarily involves moving freight from India, Iran, Azerbaijan and Russia via ship, rail and road.