The Arctic represents one of the most difficult problems that the world faces – global warming. As fossil fuel-driven economic growth causes polar ice caps to melt, it simultaneously causes new routes to open-up which makes shipping and mineral exploration more accessible, thereby perpetrating a cycle difficult to control.
This is termed as the “Arctic Paradox” and lies at the heart of every discursive conversation around the future of the Arctic. Even though the Arctic lies thousands of miles away from India, the melting ice caps affect variations in Indian monsoons causing an increase in the frequency of climatic disasters. India’s engagement with the Arctic began with the Svalbard Treaty in 1920, but it was just over a decade ago that its research endeavours gathered steam.
India currently enjoys observer status in the Arctic Council, an intergovernmental body to deliberate on the region’s ecological status, and has a research station “Himadri” in the Arctic since 2008. With a view to understanding changing climatic patterns, map and predict weather fluctuations and ensure that harnessing of resources is done sustainably, India formulated adraft Arctic Policy underlining its motives.
The Arctic region, with its vast reserves of minerals and hydrocarbons, represents a lucrative commercial opportunity for several countries, including India. However, issues of sovereignty, territorial disputes and global warming are associated with the Arctic, significantly complicating the situation.
This report examines India’s Arctic Policy, its scope as an observer at the Arctic Council and its potential to partake in the benefits of the region.