From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :
Prelims level : Nothing much
Mains level : Arctic - climate change - geopolitics
Recent offer by the US president to buy Greenland is indicative of the emerging geopolitics of the Arctic region. Climate change and China are fast destabilizing the status quo and throwing up political, security, legal, and environmental challenges. Autonomous vehicles and robots can populate uninhabitable regions and the next few decades could see the Arctic emerge as a hotspot of great power competition.
- Rising global temperatures are causing the frozen Arctic ocean to melt, opening up new sea routes and opportunities to extract hydrocarbons and minerals from the seabed and the newly exposed land surfaces.
- Countries of the Arctic are trying to take advantage of these opportunities.
- China declared itself a “near Arctic” country and is making determined efforts to extend its footprint in the polar region. Chinese firms have tried to purchase large tracts of land in Iceland, Norway and Denmark.
- There are concerns that Chinese investments in Greenland’s natural resource economy might persuade the local population to secede from Denmark, creating a Laos-like Chinese satellite state between North America and Europe.
History of superpower behavior
- In the 19th century, the US acquired Louisiana, Florida, Alaska and parts of Arizona and New Mexico through purchases.
- China drew dashed lines on a map around the South China Sea it coveted and claimed that it had always belonged to Beijing.
- Russia annexed Crimea by sending unmarked, masked troops to just take over the place.
- How should the region be shared among the eight Arctic countries – Canada, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Russia, Sweden and the US as there are overlapping territorial claims among them.
- Should these countries be allowed to assert territorial claims at all? They have formed the Arctic Council to institutionalize their self-assigned rights, but many in China, the European Union, India are against conceding sovereignty to the Arctic countries.
- Russia, Canada and Denmark are all claimants to the ownership of the Arctic pole.
- Russia is both building up its military capabilities in the region and promoting the Northern Sea Route (NSR) as a new artery of global shipping. It recently announced that it will impose rules on commercial and naval vessels using the route.
- Both China and the US will contest Russia’s jurisdiction on this water.
- China’s position in the Arctic is all for freedom of navigation, while its position over the South China Sea is denial of freedom to other countries.
- China has declared that it wants to be a polar great power. To be considered a polar great power, it must have high levels of polar scientific capacity,scientific research funding, presence in the polar regions, economic, military, political, and diplomatic capacity and international engagement in polar governance.
- Russia is keen for India to get involved in the Russian Far East and the Arctic. It liberalized visa procedures to enter Vladivostok, invited Prime Minister as the chief guest at this week’s Eastern Economic Forum.
- So far, Indian involvement in the Arctic has centred around scientific and environmental studies, mostly in partnership with Norway.
- Indian and Russian energy companies have signed agreements worth billions of dollars on exploration and joint production.
- Conditions are favourable for private Indian investors to go beyond these and explore the Siberia and further North.