India has proudly moved forward to join an elite group of countries working on various aspects of the Arctic region and its Arctic policy will play an essential role in preparing the country for a future where humankind’s biggest challenges, like climate change, can be addressed through collective will and effort.
Releasing India’s Arctic Policy in New Delhi on March 17, Union Minister for Science & Technology and Earth Sciences Jitendra Singh said that implementation of the policy will involve multiple stakeholders, including academia, the research community, business, and industry.
India has a significant stake in the Arctic as can be gauged from the fact that it holds an ‘Observer’ status in the Arctic Council, a high-level intergovernmental forum that addresses issues faced by the Arctic governments and the indigenous people of the Arctic.
Thirteen nations are observers in the Arctic Council which include India, France, Germany, Italian Republic, Japan, The Netherlands, the People’s Republic of China, Poland, Republic of Korea, Spain, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom.
The minister noted that India’s engagement with the Arctic dates back to a century when ‘Svalbard Treaty’ was signed in February 1920 in Paris and, today India is undertaking several scientific studies and research in the Arctic region. The country maintains that all human activity should be sustainable, responsible, transparent, and based on respect for international laws. In 2014 and 2016, India’s first multi-sensor moored observatory in Kongsfjorden and the northernmost atmospheric laboratory in Gruvebadet, NyAlesund, were launched in the Arctic region. India has successfully conducted 13 expeditions to the Arctic to date.
The minister said that Indian researchers are monitoring arctic glaciers for their mass balance and comparing those with glaciers in the Himalayan region. India has also been actively involved in studies related to Arctic oceanography, atmosphere, pollution, and microbiology. Over twenty-five Institutes and Universities are currently involved in Arctic research in India. About a hundred peer-reviewed papers have been published on Arctic issues since 2007.
India’s Arctic policy titled ‘India and the Arctic: building a partnership for sustainable development’ lays down six pillars that aim to promote the following agenda:
# Strengthen national capabilities and competencies in science and exploration, climate and environmental protection, maritime and economic cooperation with the Arctic region alongside the strengthening of institutional and human resource capacities within Government and other academic, research, and business institutions.
# Improve inter-ministerial coordination in pursuit of India’s interests in the Arctic.
# Enhance understanding of the impact of climate change in the Arctic on India’s climate, economic, and energy security.
# Contribute better analysis, prediction, and coordinated policymaking on the implications of ice melting in the Arctic on India’s economic, military and strategic interests related to global shipping routes, energy security, and exploitation of mineral wealth.
# Study linkages between polar regions and the Himalayas.
# Deepen cooperation between India and countries of the Arctic region under various Arctic forums, drawing expertise from scientific and traditional knowledge.
# Increase India’s participation in the Arctic Council and improve understanding of the complex governance structures in the Arctic, relevant international laws, and geopolitics of the region.
The Arctic policy will be implemented through an action plan, and an effective governance and review mechanism involving the interministerial Empowered Arctic Policy Group. The policy will help define timelines, prioritize activities and proper allocation of requisite resources.
The National Centre for Polar and Ocean Research (NCPOR) in Goa, an autonomous institute under the Ministry of Earth Sciences, is the nodal institution for India’s Polar research program, which includes Arctic studies.