Sunday, March 20, 2022

India Stakes It's Claim To The Arctic Region, Formulates The Framework Of It's Engagement

India Arctic Policy - 2022 - 01

Plans Collaborations In Ayurveda, Unani & Sidha, amongst many other ventures.

It is estimated that the Arctic region holds about 90 billion barrels of oil, 1669 trillion cu. feet natural gas & 44 billion barrels of Natural Gas Liquids. Trans-Arctic Shipping through the Northern Sea Route will save shipping vessels around 2 weeks of travel time between Eastern China & Western Europe. Not to be left out of this unicorn, energy-hungry India has conveyed intent to be a player in the region. It recently released it's Arctic Policy outlining the broad framework to guide it's future moves, including collaboration & co-operation with the 8 countries comprising the Arctic - USA, Canada, Russia, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Sweden & Norway.
India Arctic Policy - 2022 - 03
India is a member of multiple Arctic groups that are shaping up policies & frameworks, such as the Arctic Council, NY-Ålesund Science Managers Committee, AFoPS, International Arctic Science Committee, Arctic Energy Summit, Uarctic etc.. While India can not come with it's landmass into the region, it brings to the table critical core competencies with comparative advantage over others. For example, data from ISRO's Earth Observation Satellites can be used for Remote Sensing application, while it's Hydrographic surveying capabilities would help plot shipping routes. The Geological Survey of India [GSI], for example, has been conducting long-term studies to understand the variation of climate change on the Vestre Broggerbreen glacier, since 2008. The document makes it clear that India looks to leverage it's repositories of past experiences to slipstream into the Arctics. For example, the India-bound Himalayas, that it terms as the 'Third Pole' shares thermal similarities with the Arctic, as also the uninhabited continent of Antarctica, in the South Pole, where India has had much longer & expansive presence undertaking Scientific Research.
India Arctic Policy - 2022 - Himadri - 02
It's sojourns to the Arctic are quite nascent, having set up it's permanent base there, 'Himadri', in NyÅlesund, Svalbard, Norway, only in 2008. Presently, it is manned for around half the year. In comparison, India has been in the South Pole since the early 80s.
India's involvement in the Space programme of Arctic countries dates a quarter of a century back when ISRO sold a Sounding Rocket to Norway. Naturally, one stated intent is setting up of Ground Stations there, to have continual, independent communication with it's Space assets. Interestingly, with reference to the Indian Regional Navigation Satellite System [IRNSS], the document states that, "the IRNSS system is also available for assisting in the safety of maritime navigation in the Arctic". The IRNSS, before this, was not know to have coverage in those regions.

India's forays into the Arctic also throws up a challenge to the country's Ship-building industry. Marking presence there would require ability to transverse the region in specialised Polar Class ships. Currently, Indian missions hire such vessels on charter from other agencies. To ensure a meaningful presence there would require continual, persistent ability to cross the region, made possible only if Indian entities have their own domestically manufactured ships of this type. Indian Shipbuilders would have to rise up to the task & build them within the country. With proper management, it holds potential to upscale the capabilities of this industry in the country.
Curiously, the Roadmap also envisages proposed use of Ayurvedic, Siddha & Unani stream of practices to treat ailments specific to the region.
China Arctic Policy - 2018 - 01
The Arctic is hotting up, literally & otherwise. The Chinese have declared it as one of the "new strategic frontiers", calling it the "most competitive resource treasures" ripe for the picking. In 2018, on January 26, it released it's own Arctic Policy framework. Sweden hosts a Chinese Receiving Station for it's satellites in Kiruna, close to the North Pole. In 2019, it completed the MV Xue Long 2, it's first locally built ice-breaker ship, it's second such vessel & plans to build nuclear-powered vessels to traverse the Arctic waters. In 2015, a Destroyer Warship,  a missile Frigate & a supply ship from the PLAN Fleet Task Force 152 made, ostensible, goodwill visits to several Arctic countries. Similar to India, China did not hold landmass in the Arctic, a fact that it has constantly tried to revise. In 2017, a former CPC functionary Huang Nubo made a concerted attempt to acquire 300 sq. km of Norwegian land. In Sweden, it took custody of one of it's Submarine bases in Fårösund, Gotland that, subsequently, got reversed. The $27 Billion USD LNG Project in Russia's Yamal region, it has termed as, "the world’s largest natural gas development, liquefaction, transportation, and sale project in the Arctic region, and is also the first large oversea energy project since the Belt and Road Initiative was proposed in 2013".
The shut close gates to the proverbial El Dorado is melting away & India wants in on the riches.
India Arctic Policy - 2022 - 05