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Report of Monday Morning Webinar on “India’s Recently Enunciated Arctic Policy: An Assessment”

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  • April 04, 2022
    Monday Morning Meeting

    Capt. Anurag Bisen (Indian Navy) spoke on “India’s Recently Enunciated Arctic Policy: An Assessment” at the Monday Morning Webinar held on April 4, 2022. The webinar was chaired by Dr. Uttam Kumar Sinha, Centre Coordinator, Non-Traditional Security Centre. Ambassador Sujan R. Chinoy, Director General, MP-IDSA, Maj. Gen. (Dr.) Bipin Bakshi, Deputy Director General, Centre members and scholars attended the webinar.

    Executive Summary

    India released its official Arctic Policy Document which highlights that India’s interests in the region are scientific, environmental, commercial and strategic. It is for this reason that India’s engagement with the Arctic region over the decades has been consistent and multi-dimensional. This policy document sets a clear roadmap for India’s holistic engagement in the region.

    Dr. Uttam Kumar Sinha gave a brief overview of India’s Arctic Policy that was released by the Ministry of Earth Sciences on March 17, 2022. He highlighted that the process of policymaking in India is witnessing a new and enlightened trend that includes having public discussion and taking inputs. Making a reference to Mikhail Gorbachev’s Murmansk speech in 1987 in which the Soviet leader called the Arctic as a ‘Zone of Peace’, Dr. Sinha raised issues over the emerging power rivalry and geopolitics of the region.

    Capt. Anurag Bisen (Indian Navy) highlighted the long-standing need for India’s Arctic Policy. He mentioned that the Arctic region is warming three-times faster than the rest of the world, which is leading to accelerated melting of the Arctic sea-ice and consequently increased availability of mineral and hydrocarbon resources. He summarised the six pillars of India’s Arctic: 1. Science and Research 2. Economic and Human Development Cooperation 3. Climate and Environmental Protection 4. Transportation and Connectivity 5. Governance and International Cooperation 6. National Capacity Building.

    Capt. Bisen further observed that the policy document sets a broad-base and holistic roadmap for India’s engagement in the Arctic region. He outlined the scientific interconnectivities between the Arctic and the Himalayas (also known as the Third Pole), especially the crucial link between the Arctic sea-ice melt and the Indian monsoons. Speaking on the mineral and energy resources potential, Capt. Bisen mentioned that the Arctic accounts for 30 per cent of the world’s undiscovered natural gas and 13 per cent of the world’s undiscovered oil. He asserted that India’s future engagement with the Arctic region can potentially address its energy security and rare earth minerals resource needs.

    In the final part of his presentation, Capt. Bisen mentioned that India’s Arctic Policy calls for a dedicated polar research vessel, a need to develop indigenous capabilities in polar ship construction and to establish institutional funding for Arctic research at the national level. He suggested that India should also increase scientific participation in the working groups of the Arctic Council. On the issues related to economic and human development, the speaker mentioned that India is keen to explore opportunities for responsible exploration of natural resources and as per the sustainable development goals. On transport and connectivity, the document articulates India’s interest in seeking partnerships for shipbuilding and promoting opportunities for Indian seafarers. Referring to governance and international cooperation, he noted that the policy document focuses on understanding the Arctic related mechanisms at the national and sub-national legislation levels. On national capacity building, Capt. Bisen mentioned that India’s Artic Policy articulates developing Indian scholarship on the Polar Regions. Finally, he suggested that MP-IDSA could become a knowledge centre in this.

    Questions and Comments

    Following the presentation, Dr. Sinha invited the Director General, Deputy Director General and all the panel members to give comments and ask questions.

    Director General, MP-IDSA, Ambassador Sujan R. Chinoy thanked the chair and complimented Capt. Bisen for his presentation. Acknowledging the reference made by Dr. Sinha to a paper authored by the Director General himself in 2012, Ambassador Chinoy highlighted that the write-up served as an important base paper for the preparation of India’s Arctic Policy. He further highlighted the importance of India developing infrastructure capabilities in the Polar Regions in terms of shipbuilding, deep seabed research and other related domains to fulfil its interests in the Arctic. Highlighting the military importance of the Northern Sea Route (NSR), Ambassador Chinoy asked the speaker to share his views on the same.

    Deputy Director General, Maj. Gen. (Dr.) Bipin Bakshi, complimented Capt. Bisen for his presentation and highlighted the importance of linking the International North-South Transport Corridor (INSTC) with the Northern Sea Route as it will have long-term economic and connectivity benefits.

    Answering a question by Dr. Nihar R. Nayak on the Arctic interconnections with the Himalayas, Capt. Bisen mentioned that climate change in the region has direct implications on the Indian monsoons, which have a cataclysmic impact on Indian agriculture. It is therefore, extremely important for Indian scientists to understand these interlinkages.

    Responding to a question by Mr. Bipandeep Sharma on the current suspension of the Arctic Council and its implication on ‘Observer States’, Capt. Bisen responded by saying that the observer states have no influence in the Council. All decisions in the Council are taken by its member states.

    Dr. Uttam K. Sinha in his concluding remarks recommended that the participants should read India’s recently released Arctic Policy.

    Report prepared by Mr. Bipandeep Sharma, Research Analyst, NTS Centre, MP-IDSA, New Delhi.