arctic-council

Source: The Economist

Recently, India was re-elected as an Observer (first it became in 2013) to the Arctic Council. 

About India’s polar science research:

  • India is one of the very few countries to set up a permanent station in the Arctic for the purposes of scientific research. The station has been used to carry out a variety of biological, glaciological and atmospheric and climate sciences research projects in the last decade.
  • The collaboration between India and Sweden:  India and Sweden are both signatories to the Antarctic Treaty and to the Protocol to the Antarctic Treaty on Environmental Protection. 
  • Sweden as one of the eight "Arctic States" is one of the Member State in the Arctic Council whereas India has the Observer Status in the Arctic Council. 
    • The Observers are not part of the decision-making processes, but they are invited to attend the meetings of the Council, especially at the level of the working groups.

 

Background

Antarctica is Earth's southernmost continent. It contains the geographic South Pole and is situated in the Antarctic region of the Southern Hemisphere, almost entirely south of the Antarctic Circle, and is surrounded by the Southern Ocean. 

The Arctic is a polar region located at the northernmost part of Earth. The Arctic consists of the Arctic Ocean, adjacent seas, and parts of Alaska, Finland, Greenland, Iceland, Northern Canada, Norway, Russia and Sweden.

About the Arctic Council

  • The Arctic Council is only an intergovernmental ‘forum’ to promote cooperation in regulating the activities in the Arctic region. It is much more informal grouping.
  • The Council was established by the eight Arctic States — the countries whose territories fall in the Arctic region — through the Ottawa Declaration of 1996
  • The eight Arctic States — Canada, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Russia, Sweden and the United States — are the only members of the Arctic Council.
  • Besides them, six organisations representing the indigenous people of the Arctic region have been granted the status of permanent participants. All decision-making happens through consensus between the eight members, and in consultation with the permanent participants.
  • The Arctic Council does not prohibit the commercial exploitation of resources in the Arctic. It only seeks to ensure that it is done in a sustainable manner

Commercial and strategic interests

  • The Arctic region is very rich in some minerals, and oil and gas. 
  • With some parts of the Arctic melting due to global warming, the region also opens up the possibility of new shipping routes that can reduce existing distances.

India’s involvement in the Arctic

  • The Himadri research station, located in Ny Alesund, Svalbard in Norway, about 1200 km south of the North Pole, was started in July 2008. 
  • The Goa-based National Centre for Antarctic and Ocean Research (NCOAR) is the nodal organisation coordinating the research activities at this station.