India looks forward to using sea route along Arctic

New Delhi, July 4 (IANS) India, which earlier this year gained observer status at the Arctic Council, is looking forward to using the much shortened Northern Sea Route along the resource-rich Arctic in another six-seven years due to the fast-melting ice in the region.

By 2020, the Northern Sea Route – along the northern coast of Russia linking Europe, East Asia and Southeast Asia – could be easily usable with the Arctic ice melting at a fast pace. India is looking forward to using the route that would cut travel time by as much as 40 percent.

India is engaging with the Arctic Council members and hopes it could begin using that route as early as 2020, a source said.

The 13,000-nautical mile passage could almost halve the current travel time between Asia and Europe. Some countries have begun using the route, deploying icebreakers to cut through the thin ice cap in the summer months.

The Northern Sea Route allows vessels to avoid the longer traditional route through the Indian Ocean, the Suez Canal and the Mediterranean.

Last year, 46 ships, including a Chinese icebreaker called Xuelong or Snow Dragon, used the route in the summer months.

The eight Arctic nations are: Canada, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Russia, Sweden and the US. India, as also China, Italy, Japan, South Korea and Singapore were granted observer status May 15.

India also has a research station in the Arctic, Himadri, which is operated by the National Centre for Antarctic and Ocean Research. It was set up in 2008.

The Arctic region is estimated to hold 13 percent of the world’s undiscovered oil reserves and 30 percent of undiscovered gas deposits.

India is also interested in the rich reserves of oil and gas the region holds.

Early in June, External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid visited Norway and also the Svalbard research station.

India has spent $3 million on research activities so far and plans to enhance the amount. The Himadri permanent station is manned in the summer months.

India should send more researchers and capitalise on its goodwill in the region through its research activities, said the source.

Countries in the Arctic region also have great expertise in the oil sector, the source said. They are willing to share the expertise.

Poland and Slovakia have huge coal deposits, and are among leaders in “clean coal technology” – which refers to carbon capture and storage, a new technology that seeks to capture carbon dioxide from power plants and prevent it from entering the atmosphere by storing it.

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