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India’s Arctic Policy: A Guide to Sustainable Development

India's Arctic Policy

The Ministry of Earth Science has just revealed India’s Arctic Policy, called ‘India and the Arctic: building a partnership for sustainable development.’ India is now one of the 13 Observer countries in the Arctic Council. This council is like a team of countries that work together to study and solve problems in the Arctic, focusing on things like protecting the environment and making sure development in the region is sustainable.


  • India first got involved with the Arctic when it signed the Svalbard Treaty in 1920 in Paris, along with several other countries. This treaty included Norway, the US, Denmark, France, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, Great Britain, Ireland, and Sweden, and it was about Spitsbergen, the largest island in the Svalbard archipelago, which is part of Norway in the Arctic Ocean.
  • Spitsbergen is the only part of Svalbard where people live all year, and more than half of it is covered in ice all the time. The landscape is defined by mountains and fjords, along with the glaciers.
  • Since signing the treaty, India has been keeping a close eye on what’s happening in the Arctic. In 2007, India started its Arctic research program, with a main focus on climate change in that area.
  • Their goals were to study the connections between the Arctic climate and the Indian monsoon, figure out the details of Arctic sea ice using satellite information, and estimate how it contributes to global warming.
  • India is also putting effort into researching the dynamics and mass balance of Arctic glaciers, as well as the changes in sea levels. Another important aspect of their research is assessing the plants and animals in the Arctic.

What are the Major Provisions of India’s Arctic Policy?

Six Central Pillars

  • Science and research.
  • Environmental protection.
  • Economic and human development.
  • Transportation and connectivity.
  • Governance and international cooperation.
  • National capacity building.


  • It aims to strengthen national capabilities and competencies in science and exploration, climate and environmental protection, maritime and economic cooperation with the Arctic region.
  • It seeks to strengthen institutional and human resource capacities within the government and academic, research and business institutions through inter-ministerial coordination in pursuit of India’s interests in the Arctic.
  • It seeks to enhance understanding of the impact of climate change in the Arctic region on India’s climate, economic and energy security.
  • It aims to promote better analysis, prediction and coordinated policymaking on the implications of ice melting in the Arctic on India’s economic, military and strategic interests related to global shipping routes, energy security and exploitation of mineral wealth.
  • It seeks to study the linkages between polar regions and the Himalayas and deepen the cooperation between India and the countries of the Arctic region under various Arctic forums, drawing expertise from scientific and traditional knowledge.
  • The policy also seeks to increase India’s participation in the Arctic Council and improve understanding of the complex governance structures in the Arctic, relevant international laws and geopolitics of the region.

Relevance of Arctic for India

  • The Arctic region is significant due to the shipping routes that run through it.
  • According to an analysis published by the Manohar Parrikar Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses, the adverse effects of the Arctic are not just impacting the availability of mineral and hydrocarbon resources, but also transforming global shipping routes.
  • According to the Ministry of External Affairs, India can play a constructive role in securing a stable Arctic.
  • The region holds immense geopolitical importance as the Arctic is projected to be ice-free by 2050 and world powers making a beeline to exploit the region rich in natural resources.

Way Forward

  • India’s recent Arctic Policy comes at a crucial time, offering valuable guidance for our policymakers as they navigate India’s involvement in the region. It marks the initial stride towards adopting a comprehensive government-wide strategy for our Arctic engagement.
  • This policy is not just a document; it’s a tool to boost awareness about the Arctic both in India and the region itself. Through various programs, seminars, and events, it aims to foster mutual understanding.
  • To strengthen India’s representation in Arctic affairs, it’s essential to appoint an official ‘Arctic ambassador/representative’ who can effectively voice India’s perspectives on the evolving Arctic landscape.
  • Additionally, forming a dedicated expert committee is a practical step. This committee would be tasked with planning, monitoring, steering, implementing, and reviewing India’s Arctic policy, ensuring a more organized and effective approach.

Read Also: Biodiversity Beyond National Jurisdiction (BBNJ)

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