India recently circulated a draft Arctic Paper for public comments. A final document is now awaited. India’s Arctic attention has a brief-but-significant timeline, starting with expeditions in 2007 to the Arctic Ocean; the opening of a research station, Himadri, in 2008, at the international research base at Ny-Alesund in Svalbard, the northernmost island in the world belonging to Norway; and then being granted Observer Status to the Arctic Council in 2013 along with other Asian countries such as China, Japan, Singapore and South Korea.
India’s Arctic activities have come on the back of its successful scientific and diplomatic endeavours in Antarctica, the southernmost frozen continent. Closer home, the Hindu-Kush Himalaya mountains, referred to as the Third Pole, with maximum snow and ice accumulation outside the two polar regions, is a critical water store for socio-economic development in India and its neighbourhood.
The three poles — the Arctic, Antarctic and the Himalayas — with their breathtaking landscape and permafrost ecosystem are connected through risks and vulnerabilities of changing climate systems and are an intricate part of the global commons. The physical changes in the Arctic are highly likely to impact the Indian monsoon or “tele-connection” as it is described. Likewise, the emissions from the Gangetic plains partly explain the black carbon events witnessed recently in the Arctic.