Putin touts Russia’s ‘Arctic power’ with launch of nuclear icebreakers
Nov. 25, 2022

In News:

  • Russian President virtually presided over the launch and flag raising ceremony of two nuclear-powered icebreakers.
  • He said such icebreakers were of strategic importance as climate change opens up the Arctic giving access to new route and resources.

What’s in today’s article:

  • India’s involvement in Arctic
  • News Summary

India’s involvement in Arctic

  • Initial Phase
    • India’s engagement with the Arctic dates back to 1920 with the signing of the Svalbard Treaty in Paris.
    • India is one of the very few countries to set up a permanent station in the Arctic for the purposes of scientific research.
    • It launched its first scientific expedition to Arctic in the first week of August, 2007.
      • Subsequently, India has been sending scientific teams every summer and winter for carrying out studies in the Arctic.
      • Indian studies are primarily focused in the fields of glaciology, hydrochemistry, microbiology, and atmospheric sciences.
  • Subsequent involvement
    • Himadri research station, located in Ny Alesund, Svalbard in Norway, was started in July 2008.
    • In 2014, India deployed IndArc, a multisensory observatory in Kongsfjorden.
    • In 2016, India’s northernmost atmospheric laboratory was established at Gruvebadet.
      • It was established to study clouds, precipitation, long-range pollutants, and other background atmospheric parameters.
  • India is an observer in the Arctic Council
    • India is Observer to the Arctic Council since 2013. Its membership as an observer was renewed in 2019 for another five years.
      • The Council is the leading intergovernmental forum promoting cooperation on common Arctic
      • Established by the eight Arctic States — the countries whose territories fall in the Arctic region — through the Ottawa Declaration of 1996.
      • Member Nations of the Council - Canada, Kingdom of Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Russian Federation, Sweden and United States.
  • Arctic Policy launched
    • In March 2022, the Indian government unveiled an Arctic policy.
    • It envisages India’s engagement in the Arctic region for climate research, environmental monitoring, maritime cooperation and energy security.
    • The National Centre for Polar and Ocean Research (under the Ministry of Earth Sciences) will serve as the nodal agency in implementing the Arctic Policy.

News Summary

  • President Putin presided over the flag-raising ceremony and dock launch for two nuclear-powered icebreakers that will ensure year-round navigation in the Western Arctic.

Key highlights:

  • The 173.3-metre Yakutia, with a displacement of up to 33,540 tonnes, was launched into water. It can smash through ice of up to three metres. It will join service by end-2024.
  • The flag was raised on another vessel Ural. It is expected to become operational in December.
  • Two other icebreakers in the same series, the Arktika and the Sibir, are already in service and another, the Chukotka, is scheduled for 2026.
  • Super-powerful nuclear icebreaker known as Rossiya, with a displacement of up to 71,380 tonnes, would be completed by 2027. It will be able to break through ice four metres thick.

Significance for Russia

  • Strengthen Russia's status as a great Arctic power
    • Both icebreakers are part of our large-scale, systematic work to re-equip and replenish the Russian icebreaker fleet.
    • This will strengthen Russia's status as a great Arctic power.
  • Strategic significance of Arctic
    • The Arctic is taking on greater strategic significance due to climate change, as a shrinking ice cap opens up new sea lanes.
    • There has been a race among Arctic states and near-arctic states to augment their capabilities in a bid to be ready to capitalize on the melting Arctic.
      • Eg., NATO has been conducting regular exercises in the region. China, which calls itself near-Arctic state, has also announced ambitious plan for polar silk route to connect to Europe.
      • Unlike Antarctica, the Arctic is not a global common.
    • Vast oil and gas resources lie in Russia's Arctic regions, including a liquefied natural gas plant on the Yamal Peninsula.
    • As the earth further heats up, which is more profound at the poles, the race for the Arctic is set to accelerate. This makes the Arctic the next geopolitical hotspot.
  • For development of the Arctic
    • These vessels are needed for the study and development of the Arctic, to ensure safe, sustainable navigation in this region, to increase traffic along the Northern Sea Route.
    • The development of this most important transport corridor will allow Russia to more fully unlock its export potential and establish efficient logistics routes, including to Southeast Asia.
      • This route, often called as Northern Sea Route, cuts down time to reach Asia by up to two weeks compared to the current route via the Suez Canal.