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India’s New Draft Policy for the Arctic Region – Policy Watch – RSTV IAS UPSC

  • IASbaba
  • April 20, 2021
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The Big Picture- RSTV, UPSC Articles
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TOPIC: General Studies 3

  • Environment related policies

In News: India has been invested in the Arctic region for years and to secure its share of the pie that the region offers in terms of research and resources, including minerals, the Indian government has now unveiled a draft Arctic policy. It envisages India’s engagement in the Arctic region for climate research, environmental monitoring, maritime cooperation, and energy security.

Source: https://iasbaba.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/01/25th-Jan-3-768×725.png 

India’s new draft policy for the Arctic region

The draft document outlines five pillars of India’s Arctic policy: 

  1. Scientific research 
  2. Economics and human development
  3. Connectivity
  4. Global governance and international cooperation 
  5. Development of Indian human resource capabilities

India’s role

Strategic

  • India seeks to play a constructive role in the Arctic by leveraging its vast scientific pool and expertise in Himalayan and Polar research. 
  • India also aims to contribute to ensuring that as the Arctic becomes more accessible, its resources are harnessed sustainably and in consonance with best practices formulated by bodies such as the Arctic Council. 
  • India became an Observer in the Arctic Council for the first time in 2013 and its membership was renewed for another five-year term in 2018. India is NOT a full-time observer. 
  • India expects the Goa-based National Centre for Polar and Ocean Research to lead scientific research and act as a nodal body to coordinate activities under it.
  • India seeks to participate in the environmental monitoring study to evaluate the predicted emissions of ships likely to traverse this route in future.

Arctic is extraordinarily rich in energy resources and ocean resources, and over 20% of Russian exports earning now come from the Russian Arctic. It is yet another reflection of the geopolitical transformation taking place that the Russian government, most recently reconstructed to have a ministry not just of the Arctic, but the combined ministry of the Far East and the Arctic. There are gas pipelines from Russia to Europe but recently an 8,500 kilometres pipeline has been constructed from the Russian Arctic all the way down to Shanghai in China. Apart from oil and natural gas, the Arctic is also very rich in other clean energy renewable resources like hydropower, wind power, and others.

India, in addition, to focus on the research in the Arctic region, it focuses on economic and trade opportunities including that related to hydrocarbons. The Arctic is the largest unexplored prospective area for hydrocarbons remaining on earth. India’s current investment in Russia is $15 billion in oil and gas projects. The region contains reserves of mineral deposits—copper, phosphorus, niobium, platinum-group elements and rare earth.

Although these resources are becoming increasingly accessible, surveys need to be conducted to assess their full potential. Environmental and social impacts due to increased human activity also need to be taken into consideration

The draft policy calls for exploration opportunities for responsible exploration of natural resources and minerals from the Arctic and identifying opportunities for investment in Arctic infrastructure in areas such as offshore exploration/mining, ports, railways, and airports. It emphasised that renewable energy (hydroelectricity, bioenergy, wind power, solar, geothermal, and ocean energy) and microgrids play a critical role in Arctic and sub-Arctic regions and that the potential for exploiting renewables to power the Arctic is enormous.

It also talks about developing fail-safe seed storage facilities in cryospheric regions, sharing expertise in the management of indigenous and other communities with the Arctic states, encouraging Indian participation in sustainable tourism in the Arctic, and cultural and educational exchanges between the indigenous communities of the glacial regions of the Himalayas and the Arctic.

Environmental

Though none of India’s territory directly falls in the Arctic region, it is a crucial area as the Arctic influences atmospheric, oceanographic, and biogeochemical cycles of the earth’s ecosystem. 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. 

According to the draft policy, India could be particularly impacted as changes in the Arctic have an effect on water security and sustainability, weather conditions and monsoon patterns, coastal erosion and glacial melting, economic security, and critical aspects of national development

The frigid Arctic, which keeps losing ice due to global warming, is one of the batteries feeding the variations in 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.

  • To better understand the scientific and climate-related linkages between the Arctic and the Indian monsoons
  • To harmonise polar research with the third pole (the Himalayas), which are endowed with the largest freshwater reserves in the world outside the geographic poles.
  • To advance the study and understanding of the Arctic within India.

Rise or decrease in temperature in the Arctic region makes a significant difference to the monsoon and cold waves in India. So, if we are able to study the Arctic region properly and incorporate that in our climate models it can help in improving the accuracy of our climate forecast. The science is very clear that if the model does not include the details of the Arctic region the forecast won’t be accurate.

Research in the Arctic region is also crucial because it has the fastest-changing climate on the earth right now (due to climate change). So if the changes due to climate change amplify in the region, it would have huge implications for a country like India.

About Arctic:

  • The Arctic is a polar region located at the northernmost part of Earth.
  • The Arctic region comprises the Arctic Ocean and parts of countries such as Canada, Denmark (Greenland), Norway, Russia, US (Alaska), Finland, Sweden, and Iceland. These countries together form the core of the Arctic Council, an intergovernmental forum. The region is home to almost 4 million inhabitants, of which, about one-tenth are indigenous people.  (MAP THEM)
  • Land within the Arctic region has seasonally varying snow and ice cover.

Do you know?

  • India launched its first scientific expedition to the Arctic in 2007.
  • Himadri is India’s first permanent Arctic research station located at Spitsbergen, Svalbard, Norway. 
  • It was set up during India’s second Arctic expedition in 2008.

Connecting the Dots:

  1. Identify current trends in Arctic governance and geopolitics.
  2. Implementation is only the last short paragraph in India’s draft Arctic policy. Critically analyse.

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