India's Arctic Policy- UPSC Current Affairs

INDIA’S ARCTIC POLICY

Today’s series of our Current Affairs Dialog box will comprise a discussion on India’s Arctic Policy and its importance in the UPSC exam preparation. The topic has relevance from the CSE syllabus in the following ways:

For Prelims: Arctic Council, Climate Change, Arctic Region, Himadri

For Mains: India’s Arctic Policy and significance of Arctic for India.

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Why in the News?

The government has recently released India’s Arctic Policy, with an aim of enhancing the country’s cooperation with the resource-rich and rapidly transforming region.

  • It was unveiled by the Ministry of Earth Sciences.
  • The National Centre for Polar and Ocean Research (NCPOR) in Goa, an autonomous institute under the Ministry of Earth Sciences, is the nodal institution for India’s Polar research programme, which includes Arctic studies.
Arctic Policy

Image Source: Britannica

Probable Question

Discuss the Significance of the Arctic region for India and how the new policy will help India’s engagement in the Arctic.

Key points

India and Arctic – Timeline 

  • India’s engagement with the Arctic started in 1920 when India signed the Svalbard treaty in Paris.
  • In 2007, India launched its first scientific expedition to the Arctic with a focus on climate change in the region. 
  • In 2008, India established research base Himadri at Ny Alesund, Svalbard.
  • Since then, India has been able to set up an observatory in Kongsfjorden as well as an atmospheric laboratory at Gruvebadet. 
  • In 2014 and 2016, India’s first multi-sensor moored observatory in Kongsfjorden and the northernmost atmospheric laboratory in Gruvebadet, Ny Alesund, were launched in the Arctic region. 
  • Until 2022, India has successfully conducted thirteen expeditions to the Arctic.

Image source: Ministry of Earth Sciences

Key Highlights of the Policy

  • Titled: ‘India and the Arctic: building a partnership for sustainable development’.
  • The policy is built on six central pillars:
    • Science and Research
    • Climate and Environmental protection
    • economic and Human Development
    • Transportation and Connectivity
    • Governance and International Cooperation, and 
    • National capacity building

Objectives

  • The policy aims to combat climate change and protect the environment in the region, which is warming three times faster than the rest of the world.
    • The Indian government hopes to build its research capabilities in the region by strengthening existing facilities, such as the Himadri Arctic station in Svalbard.
    • It seeks to align Indian research with international Arctic priorities.
    • The policy further plans to deploy space technology to better study the Arctic region.
    • It offers a better analysis of the implications of ice melting in the Arctic on global shipping routes, energy security and exploitation of mineral wealth.
    • It also seeks to study the linkages between polar regions and the Himalayas and deepen the cooperation between India and the countries of the Arctic region under various Arctic forums, drawing expertise from scientific and traditional knowledge.

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Significance of the Arctic Region

  • India has a significant stake in the Arctic, it is one of thirteen nations holding Observer status in the Arctic Council.
  • The region is very much rich in mineral and oil resources.
  • The Arctic region is also particularly significant due to the many shipping routes that run through it.
  • The adverse effects of climate change are not only impacting the availability of mineral and hydrocarbon resources but are also transforming global shipping routes.
About the Arctic: The Arctic is a polar region located at the northernmost part of Earth.

About Arctic Council:

The Arctic Council is the intergovernmental forum promoting cooperation, coordination and interaction among the Arctic States people living in the Arctic region.

It was formally established in 1996 under Ottawa declaration.

Ottawa declaration lists the following eight countries as Members of the Council: Canada, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Russia, Sweden, the United States

Since 2013, India has been an Observer nation in the Arctic Council, where it has consistently participated in meetings of Senior Arctic Officials and contributed to its six Working Groups, the policy states.

Conclusion

  • India’s interests in the Arctic are scientific, environmental, economic as well as strategic. It is for this reason that India’s engagement with the Arctic region over the decades has been consistent and multi-dimensional.
  • India’s Arctic Policy is aimed to prepare country for a future where the biggest challenges facing humankind, such as climate change can be successfully addressed.
  • Constituting a dedicated expert committee to plan, monitor, steer, implement and review India’s Arctic policy may help streamline the country’s approach in a better manner.

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