India and the arctic: revisionist aspirations, arctic realities
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India has divergent views about circumpolar affairs. One dominant view holds that the region is a “global commons,” rather than the preserve of the Arctic coastal states with their narrow national interests, and that India should lead international efforts to preserve the Arctic environment and freeze out resource development and militarization (akin to the Antarctic model)—in short, a Polar Preserve narrative. Another view suggests that geostrategic dynamics and weak governance point to a growing Arctic Race that threatens to undermine regional (and even global) peace and security. Accordingly, some commentators argue that India, as a strong advocate of nuclear disarmament, should push for a demilitarized and nuclear-free Arctic. Others frame India’s interests in the context of regional rivalries, particularly with China, and potential impacts on Indian security from the “new Great Game” emerging in the Arctic. Another emerging Indian narrative argues that India should avoid the role of a “revisionist actor” and, instead, can benefit from engaging in established governance fora like the Arctic Council, improving its understanding of emerging Arctic political, economic, and strategic dynamics, and partnering with Arctic states on science and resource development. This narrative situates India in an emerging Arctic Saga, where enhanced cooperation and coordination with Arctic states (particularly Norway and Russia) can serve India’s national and international interests—and those of the world’s inhabitants more generally.
KeywordsArctic realities India Revisionist Arctic Saga
Thanks to Lance Hadley and Ryan Dean for timely research assistance, as well as the Chanchlani India Policy Centre at the University of Waterloo and the Asia-Pacific Foundation of Canada for financial support. Grants from the Centre for International Governance Innovation and Arcticnet facilitated research on Asian interests in the Arctic more generally.