The Arctic region is becoming the next international hotspot – both in terms of climate as well as geopolitically – with the melting of sea ice unlocking untapped resources, said analysts at a day-long seminar on ‘India and the Arctic: Prospects for Partnership’ organised by the Manohar Parrikar Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses (MP-IDSA) along with the Ministry of Earth Sciences.
“A 2017 SWIPA (Snow, Water, Ice and Permafrost in the Arctic) assessment has shown that the Arctic climate is shifting, becoming wetter, warmer and with greater variability. Scientific data has also shown that Arctic surface air temperature is rising twice as fast as temperatures in the rest of the world, and the Arctic region has been warmer between 2011-2021 than ever before. The extent, as well as the density of the sea ice, has also been declining. For the month of September, the sea ice extent decreasing has been of the order of 12.3% per decade – which is very high. This has many implications,” said India’s representative to the United Nations Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf (CLCS), Dr S Rajan. “For India – for the summer monsoons, often referred to as the finance minister of the country – 8-10% of the monsoon variability has been attributed to this Arctic sea melt,” he added.
Dr Sandip Rashmikant Oza, senior scientist, Arctic and Antarctic Cryosphere Sciences and Applications in Remote Sensing and GIS Technology, Space Application Centre, Ahmedabad, said that 0.5 mm of sea level rise can be attributed to ice melt in Greenland alone. Dr Oza pointed out that this ice melt has also released new north-western and north-eastern sea passages for international shipping.
Dr Arvind Gupta, director of Vivekananda Foundation, said on Tuesday that recent geopolitical developments, and in particular the Ukraine war, will reconfigure equations in the Arctic region.
“The Arctic Council is currently being chaired by Russia, the other members belonging to NATO. With Russia now being isolated, the Arctic Council has in effect become defunct, and equations here will change. The governance structure that had been conceptualised for the Arctic region is therefore under stress. There is a lot of Russia-China cooperation in the Arctic, and their influence in the region is only growing. On the other hand, the Nordic countries have a great interest in the region as does the US. The region has always been a military hub, but we should expect increased militarisation of the region – what will be the impact for us, we will have to wait and see,’’ said Dr Gupta.
Dr Gupta added that the region has 13% untapped oil and 30% untapped gas reserves.
Meanwhile, Dr Uttam Sinha, centre coordinator, Non-Traditional Security Centre, MP-IDSA, said that with China’s growing demand for energy, it is already positioning itself for greater control of the region, investing heavily in infrastructure in the Arctic countries. “China has been trying to buy a lot of land masses in the region,” added Dr Sinha.