India proposes to expand research, tourism in the Arctic

Arctic Policy

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Arctic Policy

In News:

  • India has released a new draft Arctic policy titled ‘Roadmap for Sustainable Engagement’ that focuses on enhancing India’s engagement with the region.
  • The implementation of the policy will involve all stakeholders including academia, research community, business and industry.

Arctic:

  • The Arctic is commonly understood to refer to the region above the Arctic Circle, north of latitude 66° 34’ N, which includes the Arctic Ocean with the North Pole at its centre.
  • Much of this Ocean falls within the jurisdiction of five Arctic littoral states—Canada, Denmark (Greenland), Norway, Russia and the USA (Alaska).
  • Three other Arctic nations, Finland, Sweden and Iceland along with the five littoral states form the Arctic Council. The Arctic Council is the primary high-level intergovernmental forum for Arctic cooperation.
  • It was set up with the twin-mandate of environmental protection and sustainable development.
Defined: A littoral nation is a country with land territory adjacent to a particular maritime area.

India’s association with the Arctic:
  • India’s association with the Arctic is part of its overall polar programme which includes activities in the Arctic, Antarctic, Southern Ocean and the Himalayas.
  • India’s engagement with the Arctic began in 1920, when it signed the Svalbard Treaty in Paris.
  • India received the Observer country status in the Arctic Council in 2013. The status was renewed in 2018.

India’s scientific expeditions in the Arctic:
  • The National Centre for Polar and Ocean Research (NCPOR), is the nodal agency for India’s Polar research programme, which includes Arctic studies.
  • 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 in 2008.
  • IndArc, the country’s first multi-sensor moored observatory was deployed in Kongsfjorden in 2014.
  • In 2016, India’s northernmost atmospheric laboratory was established at Gruvebadet.

Significance of Arctic for India:
  • Arctic is a crucial region as it 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.
  • This can particularly impact India 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.
  • Moreover, Arctic research will help India’s scientific community to study melting rates of the third pole – the Himalayan glaciers.

Pillars of the draft Arctic policy:
  • India’s Arctic policy is based on five pillars:
    1. National capacity building
    2. Science and research
    3. Economic and human development cooperation
    4. Transportation and connectivity
    5. Governance and international cooperation

Highlights of the draft Arctic policy:

National capacity building:
  • As new opportunities open up in the Arctic, India will enhance its capabilities in the region.
  • Ranging from science and exploration, to seafaring and economic cooperation, India’s Arctic engagement will be built on increasing its domestic capacity in the region.

Science and Research:
  • As a country that has been involved in scientific research in the Arctic, Antarctic and the Himalayas for several decades, India can contribute a lot to the scientific study and understanding of the Arctic.
  • India will further strengthen its capabilities in the area of scientific research and build partnerships with research institutions across the globe.
  • It will actively participate in global research projects, science-policy dialogues and decision-making processes.
  • It will set up dedicated institutional funding support for Arctic research at the national level and create funding channels for international collaborations and private-public sector joint projects.

Climate Change and Environment:
  • Climate change is an important dimension of India’s scientific research in the Arctic. Studying the impact of climate change in the Arctic can improve response mechanisms in other parts of the globe.
  • As a signatory to the Convention on Biological Diversity, India will participate in research on ecosystem values, marine protected areas and traditional knowledge systems to preserve Arctic biodiversity and microbial diversity.
  • It will engage with partners to improve Earth System modelling to support weather and climate predictions of the globe.
  • It will ensure that Indian enterprises follow high environmental standards while engaging in scientific and economic activities in the region.

Economic cooperation:
  • Pursue collaboration with Arctic states, Observers and other economic agents for mutually beneficial and sustainable economic cooperation and investment.
  • Identify opportunities for investment in Arctic infrastructure in areas such as offshore exploration/mining, ports, railways and airports.
  • Explore partnership opportunities for off-grid renewable energy and bioenergy.
  • Use India’s expertise in digital economy for enabling and facilitating establishment of data centres for commerce in the region.

Human development cooperation:
  • Share expertise in the management of indigenous and other communities with the Arctic states.
  • Explore possibilities to undertake cultural and educational exchanges between the indigenous communities of the glacial regions of Himalayas and the Arctic.
  • Encourage Indian participation in sustainable tourism in the Arctic.
  • Examine the feasibility of providing healthcare services and technological solutions (telemedicine, robotics, nanotechnology) in the Arctic.

Transportation and Connectivity:
  • Ice free conditions in the Arctic are resulting in the opening of new shipping routes, lowering costs and reshaping global trade. Traffic, especially through the Northern Sea Route, is rising exponentially and is projected to quadruple by 2025.
  • Arctic navigation needs specific hydrographic and meteorological data, communication coverage, seasonal mapping of the ice-free channels, ships of Ice-class standards and trained polar shipping crew.
  • India’s maritime human resources could contribute towards meeting the growing requirements of the Arctic.
  • India also has a well-developed hydrographic capacity that could assist in the survey and mapping of Arctic routes.
  • India will also collaborate with partners possessing expertise in building ice class vessels suitable for polar operations and exchange experience on adoption of sustainable shipping technology.

Governance and International cooperation:
  • The Arctic region is governed by numerous national domestic laws, bilateral agreements, global treaties and conventions and customary laws for the indigenous peoples.
  • India will pursue international cooperation and partnerships with all stakeholders in the region.
  • It will actively participate in international climate change and environmental treaty frameworks relating to the Arctic.
  • Develop a greater understanding of Arctic related national and sub-national legislation.
  • Encourage academic exchanges between India and other countries of the region.

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