Home Contact Us  

India - Articles

Print Bookmark Email Facebook Subscribe
#3804, 31 January 2013
India and the Melting Arctic
Vijay Sakhuja
Director (Research), Indian Council of World Affairs, New Delhi
E-mail: sakhuja.v@gmail.com

After an extensive overhaul and modernisation spanning over two years at the Zvezdochka shipyard, Sindhurakshak, an Indian diesel-electric submarine of Russian origin, was handed over to the Indian navy on 26 January 2013. Three days later, the submarine sailed for India and was escorted by two icebreakers through the frozen White Sea. In the past, the Zvezdochka shipyard has undertaken the modernisation of four Indian submarines but the Sindhurakshak is the first Indian vessel to sail back home though the Arctic. Perhaps what merits attention is that the submarine was refitted in Severodvinsk in north-west Russia where the INS Vikramaditya (formerly Gorshkov) is currently undergoing final repairs and sea trials in the White Sea. These are indeed interesting experiences for the crew of the submarine and the aircraft carrier to develop some kind of Arctic naval experience. 

The Arctic: India’s Interests

Although the above events are purely a coincidence and not mandated by the government, India’s interest in the Arctic is purely for scientific research which began in 1981 with its Antarctic programme. Subsequently, India set up the National Centre for Antarctic & Ocean Research (NCAOR) at Goa, established three permanent research stations in Antarctica, and has undertaken 25 polar expeditions. There are 14 national research institutions that support India’s polar research programme and in May 2011, the Indian government approved the acquisition of an ice-class research vessel.

The scientific research successes in the Antarctic encouraged India to look at the Arctic region. In 2007 it established ‘Himadri’ at Ny Alesund, Spitsbergen, Norway and initiated projects dealing with atmospheric science, microbiology and glaciology. India’s engagement in the Arctic is also based on the ‘Treaty concerning the Archipelago of Spitsbergen’ or the ‘Svalbard Treaty’ which it signed on February 9, 1920. At that time India was under the colonial rule and the treaty was signed on behalf of the Emperor of India. 

Besides scientific studies, India is expanding its interest in the field of resources and this shift can be attributed to the evolving geo-economic shift to the North pivoting on oil and gas, mining and fishing. Indian investments in the Arctic are in joint ventures by ONGC Videsh Limited (OVL) with Russian partners which offer an opportunity to invest in cold-climate / deep-sea oil and gas and metal extracting ventures similar to Sakhalin in East Russia. The Indian steel giant Tata is developing iron ore mines in Quebec and Newfoundland & Labrador in Canada. 

The Northern Shipping Route (NSR) is emerging as an alternative to the traditional sea route through the Indian Ocean and India could explore the possibility of using the NSR for transporting energy and mineral resources from the Arctic region. The Indian Minister of Defence has observed that, “possible melting of the polar ice caps will have tectonic consequences to our understanding of what maritime domains constitute ‘navigable’ oceans of the world. Specific to Asia and the IOR – there may be a need to re-assess concepts like choke points and critical sea lines of communication’. 

India is keen to participate as a permanent observer in the Arctic Council, a grouping of Arctic states (Canada, the USA, Russia, Norway, Denmark (with Greenland and the Faroe Islands), Finland, Sweden and Iceland), to broaden its understanding of the dynamics of the region. China, EU, Japan, Italy, India, Republic of Korea, Singapore and few other organisations are awaiting the decision of the Council on their application for a permanent observer in the Arctic Council. 

In May 2013, the Arctic Council Ministerial Meeting will be held in Kiruna, Sweden. The most important issue before the Council will be of granting permanent observer status to the new aspirants. This will be a big decision and will shape the future course of the politics in the Arctic region. Some Arctic Council members believe that the Arctic Council should not be an ‘exclusive club’ and other stakeholders must be included. Also, in May 2013, Sweden will hand over the chairmanship of the Arctic Council to Canada for two years. 
China, Japan and Republic of Korea have invested huge political and diplomatic capital, offered economic sops, and also assured the Arctic littorals that their interest in the Arctic is purely scientific in nature. These countries are also interested in the resources (living and non-living) and routes in the Arctic region. Besides, they have enormous shipbuilding capabilities to support the growing demand of ice-class ships. 
India too has accrued enormous knowledge capital in polar sciences and can offer its Antarctica experience and contribute to the understanding of climate induced changes underway in the Arctic. India has been engaging the Arctic Council members and the Indian High commissioner to Canada, Admiral Nirmal Verma, has pointed out that New Delhi can “bring a lot of strength [science] to bear” in the Arctic.  

Print Bookmark Email Facebook Subscribe
IPCS Columnists
Af-Pak Diary
D Suba Chandran
Resetting Kabul-Islamabad Relations: Three Key Issues
Can Pakistan Reset its Relations with Afghanistan?
The New Afghanistan: Four Major Challenges for President Ghani
Big Picture
Prof Varun Sahni
Understanding Democracy and Diversity in J&K
When Xi Met Modi: Juxtaposing China and India
Pakistan?s Tactical Nuclear Weapons: The Inevitability of Instability

Dateline Colombo

Asanga Abeyagoonasekera.
Sri Lanka: Moving Towards a Higher Collective Outcome
The Importance of Electing the Best to our Nation's Parliament
Sri Lanka: Toward a Diaspora Re-Engagement Plan
Dateline Islamabad
Salma Malik
Pakistan's Hurt Locker: What Next?
IPCS Forecast: Pakistan in 2015
India-Pakistan Relations in 2015: Through a Looking Glass
Dhaka Discourse
Prof Delwar Hossain
IPCS Forecast: Bangladesh in 2015
18th SAARC Summit: A Perspective from Bangladesh
Bangladesh in Global Forums: Diplomacy vs. Domestic Politics
Eagle Eye
Prof Chintamani Mahapatra
India-US: Significance of the Second Modi-Obama Meet
Has President Obama Turned Lame Duck?
Modi-Obama Summit: Criticism for Criticism?s Sake?

East Asia Compass
Dr Sandip Mishra
India-Japan-US Trilateral: India?s Policy for the Indo-Pacific
China-South Korea Ties: Implications for the US Pivot to Asia
Many ?Pivots to Asia?: What Does It Mean For Regional Stability?
Himalayan Frontier
Pramod Jaiswal
Nepal?s New Constitution: Instrument towards Peace or Catalyst to Conflict?
IPCS Forecast: Nepal in 2015
Constitution-making: Will Nepal Miss its Second Deadline?

Prof Shankari Sundararaman
IPCS Forecast: Southeast Asia in 2015
Indonesia's Pacific Identity: What Jakarta Must Do in West Papua
Modi in Myanmar: From ?Look East? to ?Act East?
Sushant Sareen
IPCS Forecast: Pakistan in 2015
Islamic State: Prospects in Pakistan
Pakistan: The Futility of Internationalising Kashmir

Looking East
Wasbir Hussain
Myanmar in New Delhi's Naga Riddle
China: ?Peaceful? Display of Military Might
Naga Peace Accord: Need to Reserve Euphoria
Maritime Matters
Vijay Sakhuja
Indian Ocean: Modi on a Maritime Pilgrimage
Indian Ocean: Exploring Maritime Domain Awareness
IPCS Forecast: The Indian Ocean in 2015

Nuke Street
Amb Sheelkant Sharma
US-Russia and Global Nuclear Security: Under a Frosty Spell?
India's Nuclear Capable Cruise Missile: The Nirbhay Test
India-Australia Nuclear Agreement: Bespeaking of a New Age
Red Affairs
Bibhu Prasad
Countering Left Wing Extremism: Failures within Successes
Return of the Native: CPI-Maoist in Kerala
The Rising Civilian Costs of the State-Vs-Extremists Conflict

Regional Economy
Amita Batra
India and the APEC
IPCS Forecast: South Asian Regional Integration
South Asia: Rupee Regionalisation and Intra-regional Trade Enhancement
South Asian Dialectic
PR Chari
Resuming the Indo-Pak Dialogue: Evolving a New Focus
Defence Management in India: An Agenda for Parrikar
Pakistani Taliban and Al Qaeda in Afghanistan: Implications for Asian Security

Spotlight West Asia
Amb Ranjit Gupta
Prime Minister Modi Finally Begins His Interaction with West Asia*
A Potential Indian Role in West Asia?
US-GCC Summit: More Hype than Substance
Strategic Space
Manpreet Sethi
India-Russia Nuclear Vision Statement: See that it Delivers
Global Nuclear Disarmament: The Humanitarian Consequences Route
Nasr: Dangers of Pakistan's Short Range Ballistic Missile

The Strategist
Vice Admiral Vijay Shankar
Jihadi Aggression and Nuclear Deterrence
The Blight of Ambiguity
Falun Gong: The Fear Within

OTHER REGULAR contributors
Gurmeet Kanwal
Harun ur Rashid
N Manoharan
Wasbir Hussain
Rana Banerji
N Manoharan

Ruhee Neog
Teshu Singh
Aparupa Bhattacherjee
Roomana Hukil
Aparupa Bhattacherjee


Browse by Publications

Issue Briefs 
Special Reports 
Research Papers 
Seminar Reports 
Conference Reports 

Browse by Region/Countries

East Asia 
South Asia 
Southeast Asia 
US & South Asia 

Browse by Issues

India & the world  
Naxalite Violence 
Suicide Terrorism 
Peace & Conflict Database 
Article by same Author
Microbeads and Microfibre: A Big Challenge for Blue Economy

Short Sea Shipping in Bay of Bengal Takes Baby Steps

Plastic Litter: The Challenge at Sea

Marine Mammal Stranding: Myth, Mystery and Facts

Dhow Trade in the North Arabian Sea

Maritime Issues: Proactive Initiatives

Towards a North Arabian Maritime Partnership

Forecast 2016: Indian Ocean Politics and Security

Indian Ocean: Modi on a Maritime Pilgrimage

Indian Ocean: Exploring Maritime Domain Awareness

IPCS Forecast: The Indian Ocean in 2015

Indian Ocean: Why India Seeks Demilitarisation

India and Maritime Security: Do More

Asia and the Seas: Looking Back to Look Forward

Indian Ocean and the IORA: Search and Rescue Operations

Pirates Prefer Energy Cargo

Maritime Terrorism: Karachi as a Staging Point

Xi Jinping and the Maritime Silk Road: The Indian Dilemma

Drug Smuggling across the Indian Ocean: Impact of Increasing Interceptions

Maritime Silk Road: Can India Leverage It?

Indian Ocean: Multilateralism Takes Root

BRICS: The Oceanic Connections

India-EU: Exploring Maritime Convergences

Rim of the Pacific Exercises (RIMPAC): Thaw in China-US Tensions?

Indian Ocean Navies: Lessons from the Pacific

Y! MyWeb
Print Bookmark Email Facebook Subscribe
Year 2017
 January  February  March  April  May  June  July  August  September  October  November  December
 2016  2015  2014  2013  2012  2011  2010  2009
 2008  2007  2006  2005  2004  2003  2002  2001
 2000  1999  1998  1997

The Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies (IPCS) is the premier South Asian think tank which conducts independent research on and provides an in depth analysis of conventional and non-conventional issues related to national and South Asian security including nuclear issues, disarmament, non-proliferation, weapons of mass destruction, the war on terrorism, counter terrorism , strategies security sector reforms, and armed conflict and peace processes in the region.

For those in South Asia and elsewhere, the IPCS website provides a comprehensive analysis of the happenings within India with a special focus on Jammu and Kashmir and Naxalite Violence. Our research promotes greater understanding of India's foreign policy especially India-China relations, India's relations with SAARC countries and South East Asia.

Through close interaction with leading strategic thinkers, former members of the Indian Administrative Service, the Foreign Service and the three wings of the Armed Forces - the Indian Army, Indian Navy, and Indian Air Force, - the academic community as well as the media, the IPCS has contributed considerably to the strategic discourse in India.

Subscribe to Newswire | Site Map
18, Link Road, Jungpura Extension, New Delhi 110014, INDIA.

Tel: 91-11-4100-1902    Email: officemail@ipcs.org

© Copyright 2017, Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies.