India and China are literally vying for space at the top of the world. The two nations have been knocking on the door of the Arctic Council, a high-level forum of eight members who have territories above the Arctic circle. Access to the Arctic Council will give the two nations the ability to carry on vital climate change and ocean currents research and gain control over vast hydrocarbons and other natural resources buried in the region. Besides India and China, Brazil, South Korea and Japan are the other nations who also have no Arctic territories are also seeking entry into the exclusive Arctic council.
“We are seeking an observer status in the Arctic council as we want to undertake scientific studies from Antarctica to the Arctic. We receive inputs on North Atlantic temperature from our station (Himadri) to study the ocean currents,” Shailesh Nayak, secretary in the Union Ministry of Earth Sciences told Deccan Herald.
The issue of membership of the two developing nations are up for hot debate at two-day meeting on the future of the Arctic Council to be held in Toronto on January 17-18. The inputs from the Toronto meeting will be sent to the ministerial meeting of the council, which takes place once in every two years. Canada and Russia are among the opponents of expansion as they fear that an enlarged contingent of observers would overshadow the current members, particularly the indigenous groups. Others, however, warn that if the non-Arctic states are not allowed at the table, they will take Arctic concerns to other international bodies such as the United Nations General Assembly and the council’s influence would diminish. Unfortunately, Canada will chair the Arctic Council in 2013.
In the past few years, both China and India have shown an active interest in the Arctic circle. Both nations already have a research station in the Svalbard Islands off Norway, from which they hope to expand north. India also has an observer status at the International Arctic Science committee (IASC) which in turn is an observer at the Arctic Council
Full members of the council are Canada, Russia, the United States of America, Norway, Finland, Sweden, Iceland and Denmark through its jurisdiction over Greenland. There are also six non-Arctic nations that sit in as observers today: the Britain, France, Germany, Spain, Poland and the Netherlands.