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MOSAiC Expedition, India and the Arctic

  Jun 13, 2020

MOSAiC Expedition, India and the Arctic

Why is it in news?

India’s Vishnu Nandan is selected to be a member of the 300-researcher group, largest ever, working on Arctic expedition.

What is MOSAiC Expedition? 

The Multidisciplinary drifting Observatory for the Study of Arctic Climate (MOSAiC) expedition is a one-year-long expedition into the Central Arctic, taking place from 2019 September to 2020. For the first time a modern research icebreaker will operate in the direct vicinity of the North Pole year round, including the nearly half year long polar night during winter. In terms of the logistical challenges involved, the total number of participants, the number of participating countries, and the available budget, MOSAiC represents the largest Arctic expedition in history.

During its one-year-long journey, the central expedition ship, the research icebreaker Polarstern from Germany will be supported and resupplied by the icebreakers from other countries.

How does Kepler help?

Key Environmental Monitoring for Polar Latitudes and European Readiness (Kepler) launched the communications satellites to provide a data link for scientists on the MOSAiC.The communication network uses nanosatellites to create the data link between scientists on the research vessel and the team at home base. Nanosatellites are cheaper than traditional satellites. For example, cubeSats. 

Why is the expedition launched?

More than 600 people will be working in the Central Arctic. More than 60 institutions from 19 countries are involved. MOSAiC's main goals are to investigate the complex and still only poorly understood climate processes at work in the Central Arctic, to improve the representation of these processes in global climate models, and to contribute to more reliable climate projections. The Arctic is the fastest-warming and changing region on Earth.

What is the importance of Arctic?

Arctic region, the enormous area around the North Pole spreading over one-sixth of the earth’s landmass (approximately the size of Russia, China and India put together!), is increasingly being effected by external global forces - environmental, commercial and strategic and in turn is poised to play an increasingly greater role in shaping the course of world affairs.

By far Climate Change and the resultant rapid melting of the Arctic Ice cap is the most important phenomenon that is redefining the global perspective on the Arctic. Current scientific consensus indicates the Arctic may experience nearly ice free summers as early as 2030’s opening up enormous opportunities as well as challenges not only for the littoral states but also the international community as a whole. While the attraction of Arctic oil and gas reserves, unexploited marine living resources and shorter shipping routes connecting the Pacific and the Atlantic Oceans is undeniable, the adverse impact of melting Arctic Ice cap on the indigenous communities, the marine ecosystems and aggravation of global warming is equally undeniable.

Why is there no global legal regime for the Arctic?

Antarctica, though uninhabited, is governed by the 1959 Antarctic Treaty ensuring that it is used for exclusively peaceful purposes. There is no similar international regime for the Arctic. This was perhaps because of the particular characteristics of the Arctic but also because of the Cold War. In the Post Cold War era a move towards cooperative arrangements for managing the Arctic region led the establishment of Arctic Council.

What is the Arctic Council and what does it do?

The Arctic Council is the leading intergovernmental forum promoting cooperation, coordination and interaction among the Arctic States, Arctic indigenous communities and other Arctic inhabitants on common Arctic issues, in particular on issues of sustainable development and environmental protection in the Arctic.

Who are the members?

The Ottawa Declaration lists 8 Members of the Arctic Council. India is an observer since 2013.Arctic Council Secretariat is in Tromsø, Norway. 

What are India’s interests in the Arctic?

India has been closely following the developments in the Arctic region in the light of the new opportunities and challenges emerging for the international community due to global warming induced melting of Arctic’s ice cap. Today India’s interests in the Arctic region are scientific, environmental, commercial as well as strategic. 

India initiated its Arctic Research Program in 2007 with thrust on climate change in the circumpolar north. The major objectives of the Indian Research in Arctic Region are as follows:

What is Himadri?

India launched its first scientific expedition to the Arctic Ocean in 2007 and opened a research base named "Himadri” at the International Arctic Research Base at Ny-Alesund, Svalbard, Norway in 2008 for carrying out studies in disciplines like Glaciology, Atmospheric sciences & Biological sciences. 

How is India related to MOSAiC?

India is participating in MOSAiC. India’s Vishnu Nandan is selected to be a member of the 300-researcher group, largest ever, working on Arctic expedition.

Is India-Russia relation related to India’s interests in the Arctic?

The joint declaration Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Russian President Vladimir Putin during the Russia-India Summit in Vladivostok in September says: India is tuned toward interaction with Russia in the Arctic. India is following the development of the Arctic region and is ready to play an important role in the Arctic Council.

India and Russia have been closely cooperating in the energy field for years. The latest cooperation includes joint developments in the Vankor oil region, an area that ultimately could be connected with the Arctic coast through a projected new pipeline. According to the Kremlin, the enhanced cooperation between the two countries also includes geological exploration, including on the Arctic shelf.

As one observer put it: Moscow could provide the much-needed opening for New Delhi to step into the Arctic.