Context:

U.S. Secretary of State said that Washington wanted to avoid a military build-up in the Arctic after Russia defended its military activities in the strategic region, on the eve of an Arctic Council meeting of Foreign Ministers.

Relevance:

GS-II: International Relations (Important International Groupings)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. About the Arctic
  2. Arctic Council
  3. Highlights of India’s ‘Arctic’ policy
  4. India in The Arctic

About the Arctic

  • The Arctic is a polar region located at the northernmost part of Earth.
  • The Arctic consists of the Arctic Ocean, adjacent seas, and parts of Alaska (United States), Canada, Finland, Greenland (Denmark), Iceland, Norway, Russia, and Sweden.
  • Land within the Arctic region has seasonally varying snow and ice cover, with predominantly treeless permafrost (permanently frozen underground ice) containing tundra. Arctic seas contain seasonal sea ice in many places.

Importance of the Resources in the Arctic region

  • The Arctic holds large quantities of minerals, including phosphate, bauxite, iron ore, copper, nickel, and diamond.
  • The United States Geological Survey estimates that 22 percent of the world’s oil and natural gas could be located beneath the Arctic.
  • Large Arctic mines include Red Dog mine (zinc) in Alaska, Diavik Diamond Mine in Northwest Territories, Canada, and Sveagruva in Svalbard.

Arctic Council

  • The Arctic Council is a high-level intergovernmental forum that addresses issues faced by the Arctic governments and the indigenous people of the Arctic.
  • The Arctic Council is a forum for promoting cooperation, coordination, and interaction among the Arctic states, with the involvement of the Arctic Indigenous communities and other Arctic inhabitants on issues such as sustainable development and environmental protection.
  • The Arctic Council has conducted studies on climate change, oil and gas, and Arctic shipping.

Member States and Observer States of the Arctic Council

  • The eight countries with sovereignty over the lands within the Arctic Circle constitute the members of the council: Canada, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Russia, Sweden, and the United States.
  • Observer status is open to non-Arctic states approved by the Council at the Ministerial Meetings that occur once every two years.
  • The Observer States are: Germany, Netherlands, Poland, United Kingdom, France, Spain, China, India, Italy, Japan, South Korea, Singapore and Switzerland.

Highlights of India’s ‘Arctic’ policy

  • India expects 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.
  • India aims to promote scientific research in the Arctic by expanding “earth sciences, biological sciences, geosciences, climate change and space related programmes, dove-tailed with Arctic imperatives in Indian Universities.”
  • Other objectives of the policy include putting in place Arctic related programmes for mineral/oil and gas exploration in petroleum research institutes.
  • India’s Arctic policy also aims at encouraging tourism and hospitality sectors in building specialised capacities and awareness to engage with Arctic enterprises.

India in The Arctic

  • 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 Kongsforden and Gruvebadet.
  • India has sent 13 expeditions to the Arctic since 2007 and runs 23 active projects.

Himadri (research station)

  • 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 by the Ministry of Earth Sciences.
  • Himadri’s functions include long term monitoring of the fjord (Kongsfjorden) dynamics, and atmospheric research.
  • The primary goals of India’s research include research on aerosol radiation, space weather, food-web dynamics, microbial communities, glaciers, sedimentology, and carbon recycling.

National Centre for Polar and Ocean Research

  • The National Centre for Polar and Ocean Research, (NCPOR) formerly known as the National Centre for Antarctic and Ocean Research (NCAOR) is an Indian research and development institution, situated in Vasco da Gama, Goa.
  • It is an autonomous Institution of the Department of Ocean Development (DOD), Ministry of Earth Sciences, which is responsible for administering the Indian Antarctic Programme and maintains the Indian government’s Antarctic research stations, Bharati and Maitri.
  • NCPOR complex is a home to a special low-temperature laboratory and is setting up a National Antarctic Data Centre and a Polar Museum.
  • The NCPOR operates in different fields or tasks:
    1. storing ice core samples, from Antarctica and the Himalayas.
    2. operating the Himadri and IndARC Arctic research stations in Svalbard, Norway.
    3. managing the oceanic research vessel ORV Sagar Kanya, the flagship of India’s fleet of oceanographic study vessels.

-Source: The Hindu

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