Inaugural Address by Dr Arvind Gupta, Director General, IDSA at IDSA-PRIO Workshop on Global Governance and Resource Use: The Case of the Arctic
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  • November 19, 2012

    Event: Workshop

    I would like to extend a warm welcome to Dr. Harpviken, Director, Peace Research Institute, Oslo, and his delegation to the IDSA-PRIO Workshop on Global Governance. The workshop is focusing on the importance of the arctic region in the context of governance and resource use.

    The present workshop is an outcome of a review of IDSA-PRIO cooperation that we had undertaken in Oslo in summer this year. We had a chance to visit Kirkenes in the Norwegian Arctic Circle and meet with several people including Mr Rune Rafaelsen, General Secretary, Norwegian Barents Secretariat and his colleagues. We also had a useful exchange of views with Dr Leiv Lunde, Director, Fridtjof Nansen Institute, Oslo, and Capt Gunnar Heloe, Norwegian Ministry of Defence. This has helped us to widen the scope of our cooperation on more strategic and global issues. IDSA-PRIO institutional cooperation, which began in 2006, is maturing. After having focused in initial years on non-traditional security issues, conflict management, human security etc, we are now moving on to global governance issues. The IDSA-PRIO cooperation has also facilitated capacity building of our scholars. The PRIO facilitated the visit of a high level Norwegian delegation to IDSA including the visit of the Norwegian Foreign Minister and the Minister of State from the defence ministry. NDC team from India visited PRIO in 2007 and 2011.

    In India, the awareness about the geo-strategic importance of the Arctic Sea in the context of the dramatic melt down of the arctic ice due to global warming, is growing. India has had a long association with scientific research pertaining to the Arctic region. We have a scientific research station at Svalbard since 2008. The station, operated by the National Centre for Antarctic and Ocean Research, focuses on glaciological studies, paleoclimatyology, atmospheric physics and chemistry, Sea-ice eco system and geological mapping. However, with the opening of the Northern Sea route for some months during the summer and the North-West passage, the Arctic Sea is likely to emerge as major shipping lane in the future, linking the Atlantic Ocean with the Pacific Ocean. Vast amount of hydro-carbon resources are also expected to be found in the Arctic Circle. The region is rich in minerals too. The Arctic Sea was heavily militarized during the cold war years and even today the Russians have major naval base in the region.

    These factors make the arctic region as a region with tremendous geopolitical significance. The opening of the arctic region is closely linked with the global warming and climate change. Although India may be far from the arctic region physically, the impact of the melting of the arctic ice on global weather system will be significant and needs to be understood. What will be the impact of the release of vast amount of methane gas on global warming and climate change when the Arctic ice melts? Will these fundamental transformations have any impact on the stability of the monsoon system on which billions of people in South Asia and South-east Asia depend for survival? These issues need to be understood and discussed in depth.

    Thus, the Arctic Sea-melt has a scientific, economic as well as geopolitical dimensions. India cannot be immune to the consequences of the arctic ice melt.

    The Arctic Council has come to play an important role in the governance and resource use in the Arctic. Several countries that are not in the Arctic region are engaging with the Arctic Council in some way or the other. Many Asian countries including China, Japan and Singapore have applied for observer status in the Arctic Council. The Indian Defence Minister has underlined the fact that the melting of the polar ice caps will have “tectonic consequences to our understanding of what maritime domains constitute ‘navigable’ oceans of the world”. India also needs to step up its engagement with the Arctic Council and explore whether it could be included as an observer member in the Arctic Council. Our Norwegian friends can help Indian engagement with the Arctic Council.

    We are glad that a representative of the Ministry of External Affairs is attending today’s workshop.

    I would also like to welcome the Indian participants in the workshop including Mr Mukul Sanwal, Col PK Gautam, Lyndia Powell, Shebonti Ray Dadwal, Cdr. SS Parmar and others. Dr Uttam Sinha deserves special mention as he has been coordinating the holding of the workshop.

    It is hoped that this workshop and subsequent events will lead to a greater understanding of the issues pertaining to the arctic ice melt. The deliberations of the workshop will hopefully contribute to policy making process in both the governments.

    I wish you all productive deliberations.