India’s Draft Arctic Policy

India’s Draft Arctic Policy has been brought out by the Government of India to the public. The Arctic policy of India is committed to expanding scientific research, sustainable tourism and mineral oil and gas exploration in the Arctic region.

India has been investing in the Arctic region for so many years because the region offers a lot in terms of research and resources, including minerals and hydrocarbons. Thus, to secure its share of the pie in the region, India has drafted its Arctic Policy. 

Visit the Hydrocarbon Exploration and Licensing Policy – HELP on the linked page to understand the need of hydrocarbon exploration. 

The Arctic Policy envisages India’s engagement in the Arctic region for climate research, environmental monitoring, maritime cooperation and energy security.

The article aims to provide relevant facts on India’s Arctic Policy. Since it has been in the news recently the article will help candidates prepare for the current affairs section of the IAS exam as well as other competitive exams. 

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India’s Arctic Policy 

India’s Arctic Policy roadmap for sustainable engagement draft rides on five pillars, they are –

  1. Science and research activities,
  2. Economic and human development cooperation,
  3. Transportation and connectivity, 
  4. Governance and international cooperation, and
  5. National capacity building.

Nodal Agency – 

India has designated the Goa-based National Centre for Polar and Ocean Research to lead scientific research and act as a nodal body to coordinate among various scientific bodies to promote domestic scientific research capacities in the arctic. Read in detail about the National Centre for Polar and Ocean Research on the given link. 

Objectives of India’s Draft Arctic Policy 

  1. Promotion of Scientific Study of Arctic Region – Orient the curriculum on earth sciences, geosciences, climate change, biological sciences, and space-related programmes, dove-tailed with Arctic imperatives in Indian Universities.
  2. Promotion of Arctic Tourism – to encourage tourism and hospitality sectors by building specialised capacities and awareness by engaging with Arctic enterprises.
  3. Planning the explorations in the Arctic region – to formulate effective plans for Arctic-related programmes for mineral, oil and gas exploration in petroleum research institutes.

India’s Draft Policy – Associated Benefits

  1. The opening of the region presents huge opportunities both economically and commercially especially in terms of shipping, fisheries, energy and mineral resources.
  2. 22% of the world’s unexplored resources (Oil and Natural gas deposits) and mineral deposits are estimated to be mostly in the Arctic ocean.
  3. It will also open access to 25% of the global reserves of rare earths, buried in Greenland. Read about Rare Earth Minerals in detail on the linked page. 
  4. Following the Northern Sea Route could revolutionise the prospects of trade in Russia and Scandinavian countries. It will substantially reduce the transportation time, fuel consumption also it will limit environmental emission and eliminate piracy risk.
    • The Northern Sea Route is a shipping lane connecting the North Atlantic to the North Pacific through a short polar arc. 

Facts on Arctic Region

  1. The Arctic is a polar region located at the northernmost part of Earth.
  2. The Arctic region comprises the Arctic Ocean and parts of countries such as Canada, Denmark (Greenland), Norway, Russia, USA (Alaska), Finland, Sweden, Iceland and adjacent seas. 
  3. These countries together form the core of the Arctic Council, an intergovernmental forum. Further information on the Arctic Council is available on the linked page. The region is home to almost four million inhabitants, of which, about one-tenth are indigenous people.
  4. Land within the Arctic region has seasonally varying snow and ice cover.

Importance of Arctic Region for India

The Arctic region is crucial for India even though none of India’s territory directly falls in this region because it influences atmospheric, oceanographic and biogeochemical cycles of the earth’s ecosystem. 

Given below are a few points that will explain the importance of the Arctic Region for India – 

Scientific importance-

  • Studying Himalayan Glaciers: Scientific research in Arctic developments, in which India has a good record, will contribute to its understanding of climatic changes in the third Pole, the Himalayas.
  • Research Stations: India launched its first scientific expedition to the Arctic in 2007 and set up a research station ‘Himadri’ in the international Arctic research base at Ny-Ålesund in Spitsbergen, Svalbard, Norway.
  • India has two other observatories in Kongsfjorden and Gruvebadet in Norway.

Environmental importance-

  • India’s extensive coastline makes it vulnerable to the impact of Arctic warming on ocean currents, weather patterns, fisheries and most importantly, the monsoon. Read in detail about the Monsoon in India on the given link.
  • The frigid Arctic, which keeps losing ice due to global warming, is one of the reasons for variations in the Indian monsoons, over 7,000 kilometres away. Studying the response to warming in the form of melting is quite relevant to India as it provides tools to monitor changes in the Arctic.
  • Arctic research will help India’s scientific community to study melting rates of the Himalayan glaciers, which are endowed with the largest freshwater reserves in the world outside the geographic poles.

Strategic Interest-

  • Membership of the Arctic Council – India has an observer status in the Arctic Council, since 2013, which is the predominant inter-governmental forum for cooperation on the environment and development aspects of the Arctic.
  • Countering Chinese Influence: The strategic implications of an active China in the Arctic and it’s growing economic and strategic relationship with Russia are self-evident and need close monitoring.

Issues associated with the Arctic Region

  1. The Arctic region is not a global common like Antarctica and there is no overarching treaty that governs it.
  2. Difficulties exist in terms of the need for ice-breakers, lack of deep-water ports, shortage of workers trained for polar conditions, high insurance costs, etc.
  3. Navigation conditions in the Arctic are dangerous and restricted to the summer. Also, mining and deep-sea drilling carry risk to the environment along with massive costs.

Impact of warming on Arctic Region

Due to climate change, the region faces the loss of sea ice, ice caps, and warming of the ocean which in turn impacts the global climate. A few of them are mentioned below – 

  1. Sea level is rising – warm water and loss of ice is affecting the level of Sea and Salinity along with current and precipitation patterns. Check out the NCERT Notes on Salinity of Ocean Waters on the given link. 
  2. Tundra, the treeless region in the North of Arctic and South of Antarctic circle is deteriorating. The permafrost is thawing and the region is returning to swamp.
  3. The Arctic region has rich biodiversity which is under serious threat. The high temperatures and year-long absence of ice are making the survival of Arctic marine life, plants and birds difficult, thus, encouraging species to move north. 

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