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Eastern bloc, polar promises

After getting observer status at the 15 May meeting of the Arctic Council, India is working on a composite strategy to play a wider role in the exploitation of natural resources in the Arctic Ocean. Along with India, China, Italy, Japan, South Korea and Singapore have also been granted observer status at the last meeting of the Council.

India has been lobbying for this status  for long and now India has got a big opportunity to make use of its skilled manpower and expertise for the cause of the scientific development of the region. As India sees it, India would contribute its scientific expertise, particularly its polar research capabilities to the work of the Arctic Council to support its objectives. Indian experts are working on the blueprint of  both medium term and long tern strategy and right now, India is looking at the opportunities for hydrocarbons exploration offered in the Arctic Circle by joining with one of the five countries gearing up for the purpose – United States, Russia, Canada, Norway and Denmark
Sources say that India is giving serious consideration to this important issue of collaboration and the view is that from the view of geographical distance, Russia will be the most attractive partner. But for that to happen, India will have to take a firm political stand  on the Lomonosov Ridge and the Mendeleev Ridge which Russia claims, are an extension of its continental shelf. By supporting Moscow’s position, India could get access to the rich deposits and also utilise the North Sea route.
The rapid melting of Arctic Sea ice that reached new lows last September has caused nations to show intense interest in the region in terms of navigation  and exploration of its rich natural resources. Though India has had a research station there since 2008, China has forged much ahead in navigating the area with a three month sea voyage in an ice breaker, the first Asian ship to undertake that journey. China is now eyeing new and shorter sea routes, its Polar Research Institute having already made projections on container traffic and trade.

Indian experts believe that Arctic is going to be an imported hub for possible sources of energy and it could be a passage which shortens transit lines for shipping. Apart, the region contains many areas for scientific investigation in which India has deep interests. India has been working with Arctic Council’s eight member nations and India has offered its experts to the Arctic pool for investigations. India feels that through its size of technological personnel including those in navigation, it can
contribute a lot to the human resources of the existing Arctic Circle activities. Already an  experimental station of India is working in Norway with the objective of carrying out deep sea research. Russia, being a member of the Arctic Council, has been active for long and Russian researchers have collected sufficient probative data to substantiate Russian continental shelf boundaries. This, within the framework of three month geological and physical expedition Arctic 2012 on validation of outer boundaries of Russian continental shelf, researchers have gathered more than 22 thousand rock samples from the Arctic ocean. The Russians say that the results of ocean floor seismic exploration denote that Mendeleev Ridge is of similar nature of continental structure. Russia has submitted to the United Nations a request for for recognition of Lomonosov shelf as its territory and in its bid, Russia wants India’s support. Russian argument is that among all Arctic states, Russia is the most tie tested partner of India and supporting the position of Moscow now, New Delhi significantly can consolidate its chances to get access to the richest Russian shelf deposits, North Sea route flow lanes and well developed infrastructure on favourable conditions in future.
There is another political angle of this. China is equally active in the region and Beijing’s geographical position places it in a more advantageous position vis a vis India for using Arctic resources to satisfy raw material needs. An understanding between Russia and India will be far beneficial to India in getting maximum benefits from the Arctic resources.

While, the Indian Government at the highest level is examining the possibility of expanding research activities at Arctic, the scientists are already working on expanding the activities of Himadri research station in Norway side, 1200 km from North Pole. External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid   has visited the station early this week and Indian scientists have been encouraged to  take up extensive data research.

With Himadri, India established a full fledged research station in 2008 and the experts initiated three projects in atmospheric science, microbiology and earth sciences with  glaciology. The higher status of India in Arctic Council now, has given a big boost to the scientists and technologists working in the station. IPA
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