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South Asian nation sends maiden winter expedition to Arctic

India has intensified studies in the region, which it believes holds the key to global climate, sea levels, and biodiversity

India is sending its first-ever winter expedition to the Arctic to conduct atmospheric observations during the polar nights, study auroral changes, and monitor variations in sea ice.

The mission was launched in New Delhi on Monday by Kiren Rijiju, Indian Minister of Earth Sciences. The country has been sending summer expeditions to the frigid region for the past 16 years, but the maiden winter voyage holds “immense significance” as India “navigates the Arctic’s critical influence on global climate, sea levels, and biodiversity for the first time,” the minister noted. 

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A team of four scientists will be sent to the Himadri research station in Svalbard, Norway, which will serve as the base for year-round observations. The expedition’s aim is to understand the complex interactions between the Arctic climate and the Indian monsoon system, as well as contribute to research on global warming, India Today reported. 

According to Thamban Meloth, director of India’s National Center for Polar and Ocean Research (NCPOR), the new explorations will cater for “new scientific projects in atmospheric and space sciences.”

Meloth said “wintering” at the Himadri would cost the government an additional $120,000. In an interview with The Indian Express, the official also revealed that India had initiated new projects in Canada’s Arctic region and is planning to begin studies in Greenland. 

The new expedition aligns with India’s Arctic Policy, unveiled in 2022,  which focuses on enhancing the country’s cooperation with other countries in the resource-rich region. The policy is built on the pillars of science and research, climate and environmental protection, economic and human development, transportation and connectivity, governance and international cooperation, and national capacity building.

The success of India’s winter expedition is expected to pave the way for continuous presence and research in the Arctic, mirroring India’s success in the Antarctic, where it has two operational research stations named Maitri and Bharati. 

Experts believe India’s increased attention to the Arctic will not only raise New Delhi’s status in the Arctic Council and other regional scientific groups, but will open further opportunities for cooperation with key players in the region, including Russia. New Delhi and Moscow already have considerable cooperation in the hydrocarbon sector, with Indian companies owning stakes in Russian upstream projects such as Sakhalin-1, Vankorneft and Taas-Yuryakh. Indian investments in Russia’s oil and gas sector had reached around $16 billion at the end of 2022. 

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READ MORE: India considering investment in Russian Arctic shipping

Both countries are also betting on reviving Arctic shipping. Earlier this year, India’s minister of ports, shipping and waterways, Sarbananda Sonowal, held talks with Russia’s minister for development of the Far East and the Arctic, Aleksey Chekunkov, in Vladivostok. They discussed using the Northern Sea Route (NSR) in Russia’s exclusive economic zone within Arctic waters as an alternative maritime route which can be connected with the Eastern Maritime Corridor (EMC) that stretches from Vladivostok to the southern Indian port of Chennai.

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December 18, 2023 at 09:16PM
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