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Approach:

  1. Introduction
  2. Briefly state the Arctic’s relevance for India.
  3. Chart out the gaps in India’s Arctic approach.
  4. Mention how the new policy addresses those gaps ?
  5. Conclusion with short significance of the policy.

India’s Arctic Policy, released in March 2022, fulfills a long standing need for clear articulation on a rapidly transforming Arctic, whose rate of warming is 3 times faster than the rest of the world.

Relevance of Arctic for India:  the relevance of Arctic for India ranges from scientific research, climate change and environment; economic & human resources to geopolitical and strategic reasons.

What are the gaps in India’s approach ?:

  • Lack of articulated policy : even though the Ministry of External Affairs had listed India’s interests in the Arctic as ‘scientific, environmental, commercial & strategic’, till recently, India was one among the Observer nations of the Arctic Council that had no nationally articulated Arctic policy.
  • Beyond scientific orientation : India’s needs go beyond purely scientific approach in the Arctic. India needs to understand the dynamics of its geopolitics and governance.
  • Inadequate funding : India’s polar research for Antarctic, Arctic, Southern Ocean and Himalayas are budgeted under the Polar Science and Cryosphere programme of Ministry of Earth Sciences. But, India’s Antarctic programme is given 5 times more allocation than Arctic programme.
  • Lack of dedicated polar research vessel is a serious impediment in the growth of India’s polar activities. In 2014, the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs had approved acquisition of PRV at Rs. 1051 crore within 34 months, which is yet to be materialized.
  • Lack of nodal body : there is no nodal body to coordinate specifically all activities relating to the Arctic. Presently, the National center for Polar and Ocean Research oversees this.
  • Arctic lacks awareness and has largely been ignored in India’s policy considerations.

India’s Arctic Policy titled “India’s Arctic Policy: Building a Partnership for Sustainable Development” has charted out 6 pillarsscientific research; economic and human cooperation; climate & environmental protection; transportation & connectivity; governance and international cooperation; and national capacity building.

Does India’s new Arctic Policy address the gaps ?:

  • It has gone beyond the scientific approach. While the primary focus is still scientific, the 6 pillars addresses all the aspects of Arctic relevant to India. This will make India’s engagement more broad-based & holistic.
  • With the enhancement of multi-disciplinary approach, it is hoped that budgetary support to India’s Arctic endeavors will be substantially raised.
  • The intent articulated in the Arctic policy regarding polar research vessel will hasten the process of India’s Arctic programme.
  • The objectives are to be implemented through an Action Plan and a governance mechanism consisting of an inter-ministerial Empowered Arctic Policy Group. It will enable a coordinated approach.
  • In Arctic engagement, the policy declares to develop a robust human, institutional & financial base in keeping with the philosophy of ‘Aatmanirbhar Bharat’.
  • The policy will promote larger pool of experts and academia to have better awareness of the Arctic.
  • Besides these, the Arctic policy targets linking International North-South Transport Corridor (INSTC) with the Unified Deep-Water system of Russia, and its further extension to the Arctic.
  • In sharp contrast to China’s declaration as ‘Near Arctic State’, India’s Arctic policy has focused on the mutually beneficial aspects.

India’s association with Arctic is over 100 years old. India’s Arctic policy is timely and is likely to provide a direction to policy makers on the contours of India’s engagement with the region. India’s policy is inclusive and participative. It is dovetailed, and in synergy with the broader policy framework, most importantly, in keeping with India’s civilizational ethos of ‘Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam’.

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