What is the issue ?
- Though the Arctic ice is melting making way for navigable waters in some sense, the route isn't navigable enough to handle major traffic.
About the melting ice in Arctic :
- The Arctic region which has permanently frozen ice is melting at an increasing rate due to global warming and is expected to be icefree by 2060
- Despite melting ice, the waters would be tough to navigate due to subzero temperatures and would pose serious challenges to ships effecting their movement and schedules which carries a premium in container traffic.
Why the interest in the Arctic ?
- It is seen as an alternate shipping route to cut time and costs and also circumvent the global choke points.
- Already several countries have sent their ships and ice breakers in the summer months to demonstrate the navigability. Countries such as China and Japan are investing in infrastructure development there.
Where does India feature in the scheme of things ?
- India being an observer in the Arctic Council needs to play a proactive role in the any future development of the region.
- There is increasing concern in India as China makes inroads into the strategically important Arctic region which has large reserves of untapped minerals and fossil fuels.
About the Arctic Council :
- The Ottawa Declaration of 1996 formally established the Arctic Council.
- The Arctic Council, which is an intergovernmental organisation, has eight member states, six independent permanent participating organisations and observers which are non Arctic states like India and China.
- Mandated to provide a means for promoting cooperation, coordination and interaction among the Arctic states, with the involvement of the Arctic Indigenous communities and other Arctic inhabitants on common Arctic issues, in particular issues of sustainable development and environmental protection in the Arctic.
- The Ottawa Declaration names eight members of the Arctic Council as: Canada, Russia, Norway, Denmark, Iceland, the United States, Sweden and Finland.