India and the Arctic: Building a partnership for sustainable development – UPSC GS3

Context: Ministry of Earth Science has unveiled India’s Arctic Policy, titled ‘India and the Arctic: building a partnership for sustainable development’.
Major Provisions of India’s Arctic Policy:
  • Six Central Pillars:
    • Science and research.
    • Environmental protection.
    • Economic and human development.
    • Transportation and connectivity.
    • Governance and international cooperation.
    • National capacity building.
  • Objectives:
    • It aims to strengthen national capabilities and competencies in science and exploration, climate and environmental protection, maritime and economic cooperation with the Arctic region.
    • It seeks to strengthen institutional and human resource capacities within the government and academic, research and business institutions through inter-ministerial coordination in pursuit of India’s interests in the Arctic.
    • It seeks to enhance understanding of the impact of climate change in the Arctic region on India’s climate, economic and energy security.
    • It aims to promote 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.
    • It seeks to study the linkages between polar regions and the Himalayas and deepen the cooperation between India and the countries of the Arctic region under various Arctic forums, drawing expertise from scientific and traditional knowledge.
    • The policy also seeks to 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.
Relevance of Arctic for India:
  • The Arctic region is significant due to the shipping routes that run through it.
  • According to an analysis published by the Manohar Parrikar Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses, the adverse effects of the Arctic are not just impacting the availability of mineral and hydrocarbon resources, but also transforming global shipping routes.
  • According to the Ministry of External Affairs, India can play a constructive role in securing a stable Arctic.
  • The region holds immense geopolitical importance as the Arctic is projected to be ice-free by 2050 and world powers making a beeline to exploit the region rich in natural resources.
Way Forward:
  • India’s Arctic Policy is timely and is likely to provide a direction to India’s policy-makers on contours of India’s engagement with the region.
  • It is the first step towards developing a whole-of-government approach on India’s engagement with the region.
  • The Policy is also likely to raise awareness about the Arctic within India and vice-versa through conduct of programmes, seminars and events in India and in the Arctic.
  • However, India must also officially appoint an ‘Arctic ambassador/representative’ who will represent and voice India’s perspectives on Arctic affairs.
  • Constituting a dedicated expert committee to plan, monitor, steer, implement and review India’s Arctic policy may help streamline the country’s approach in a better manner.
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