India and the Arctic



  • India’s interests in the Arctic region are scientific, environmental, commercial as well as strategic.
  • At 11th Arctic Council ministerial meeting held at Rovaniemi in Finland,in May 2019, India was re-elected as an observer to intergovernmental forum Arctic Council. “India was an Observer at the Council from 2013 onwards,”

Changes in Arctic region

  • Arctic region, the enormous area around the North Pole spreading over one-sixth of the earth’s landmass (approximately the size of Russia, China and India put together!), is increasingly being effected by external global forces.
  • By far Climate Change and the resultant rapid melting ice caps of Arctic region is opening up enormous opportunities for Arctic oil, gas reserves and shorter shipping routes connecting the Pacific and the Atlantic Oceans.
  • The adversarial impact of melting Arctic Ice cap on the indigenous communities, the marine ecosystems and aggravation of global warming is equally undeniable.
  • Current scientific consensus indicates the Arctic may experience nearly ice free summers as early as 2030’s opening up enormous opportunities as well as challenges not only for the littoral states but also the international community as a whole.
  • The adversarial impact of melting Arctic Ice cap on the indigenous communities, the marine ecosystems and aggravation of global warming is equally undeniable.

Arctic Council

  • The Arctic Council is a high level intergovernmental body set up in 1996 by the Ottawa declaration to promote cooperation, coordination and interaction among the Arctic States together with the indigenous communities and other Arctic inhabitants.
  • The Council has the eight circumpolar countries (Norway, Sweden, Finland, Iceland, Denmark (Greenland and Faroe Islands), Canada, US and Russia) as member states and is mandated to protect the Arctic environment and promote the economies and social and cultural well-being of the indigenous peoples whose organizations are permanent participants in the council.
  • Observer status in the Arctic Council is open to Non-governmental organizations, Non-littoral states as well as to Intergovernmental and Inter-Parliamentary organizations. As of May 2017, thirteen non-Arctic states have Observer status.

Observer states consist of the following:

  1. Germany, 1998
  2. Netherlands, 1998
  3. Poland, 1998
  4. United Kingdom, 1998
  5. France, 2000
  6. Spain, 2006
  7. China, 2013
  8. India, 2013
  9. Italy, 2013
  10. Japan, 2013
  11. South Korea, 2013
  12. Singapore, 2013
  13. Switzerland, 2017
  14. Ireland, 2019

India’s Interest  

  • India’s engagement with the Arctic dates back to nearly nine decades when it signed the ‘Treaty between Norway, US, Denmark, France, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, Great Britain and Ireland and the British overseas Dominions and Sweden concerning Spitsbergen’ also called the ‘Svalbard Treaty’ in February 1920 in Paris.
  • India has been closely following the developments in the Arctic region in the light of the new opportunities and challenges emerging for the international community due to global warming induced melting of Arctic’s ice cap.
  • India launched its first scientific expedition to the Arctic Ocean in 2007 and opened a research base named “Himadri” at the International Arctic Research Base at Ny-Alesund, Svalbard, Norway in July 2008 for carrying out studies in disciplines like Glaciology, Atmospheric sciences & Biological sciences.
  • India has also entered into MOU with Norwegian Polar Research Institute of Norway, for cooperation in science, as also with Kings Bay (A Norwegian Government owned company) at Ny-Alesund for logistic and infrastructure facilities for undertaking Arctic research and maintaining Indian Research base ‘Himadri’ at Arctic region.
  • India initiated its Arctic Research Program in 2007 with thrust on climate change in the circumpolar north.

The major objectives of the Indian Research in Arctic Region are as follows:

  1. To study the hypothesized tele-connections between the Arctic climate and the Indian monsoon by analyzing the sediment and ice core records from the Arctic glaciers and the Arctic Ocean.
  2. To characterize sea ice in Arctic using satellite data to estimate the effect of global warming in the northern polar region.
  3. To conduct research on the dynamics and mass budget of Arctic glaciers focusing on the effect of glaciers on sea-level change.
  4. To carry out a comprehensive assessment of the flora and fauna of the Artic vis-àvis their response to anthropogenic activities. In addition, it is proposed to undertake a comparative study of the life forms from both the Polar Regions.
  •  India was elected to the Council of the International Arctic Science Committee (IASC) in 2012.
  • It is in recognition of this contribution to Arctic Studies that India’s application for Observer Status in 2012 received widespread support from all member countries and India was granted observer status to the Arctic Council at the Eighth Biennial Ministerial meeting of the Arctic Council in Kiruna, Norway on May 1, 2013 under the Chairmanship of Sweden.

Way Forward

  • The impact of rapid changes in the Arctic region goes beyond the littoral states and any legitimate and credible mechanism to respond to these challenges calls for active participation of all those actors who have a stake in the governance of global commons.
  • The interplay between science and policy has the potential to contribute to the better handling of the complex issues facing the Arctic.
  • India which has a significant expertise in this area from its association with the Antarctic Treaty System can play a constructive role in securing a stable Arctic.
  • India in its new role as a permanent observer in the Arctic Council is committed to contribute to the deliberations of the council to develop effective cooperative partnerships that can contribute to a safe, stable and secure Arctic.



Ministry of External affairs 

Arctic Council


Down to earth  



May 17, 2019

0 responses on "India and the Arctic"

Leave a Message

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Designed and developed by Bitibe