Thursday April 25, 2019
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Geostrategic loss of India in the age of global warming

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In the wake of global warming, Arctic Ocean could be foreseen free of ice during summertime, says a study published in the journal Nature Climate Change. This is a big news that concerns the geostrategic importance of India. It implies that reduced ice coverage combined with technological improvements may allow this region to become accessible to large-scale economic activities to a degree never experienced before.

India can be a victim to this increasing environmental threat in more than one way. For which the country will have to develop policies to safeguard its environment and also its geostrategic importance in the world.

India, a geographically privileged country can come under the threat of losing its geo significance and can shift to a zone of less importance due to international paradigm shifts in geostrategies.

Renowned geopolitical theorist, Sir Halford Mackinder had said that geographic locations and natural resources are the paramount factors in determining a nation’s foreign policy and power base. He believed the actual world political power at any given time was, “the product, on the one hand, of geographic condition of both economic and strategic, and on the other hand, of the relative number, virility, equipment, and organisation of competing people.”

The Indian Ocean signifies the above factors and, thus, becomes of extreme importance to Indian Navy targeting at building the ”Blue Water” navy. We find India at the fulcrum of the Indian Ocean region. It is the nerve axis of the sea lanes of communication (SLOC) as they initiate and terminate here.

China is attempting to develop an overwhelmingly powerful strategy in the Indian Ocean to protect its sea lanes of communication, especially for the transportation of energy through the Malacca Strait.

It is aware of the vulnerability of its SLOC’s from state and non-state actors. China is even more so susceptible in the Malacca Strait as over 82 percent of its oil imports pass through it. According to the former Chinese President Hu Jintao, this vulnerability represents China’s ‘Malacca Dilemma’.

Beijing is growingly getting concerned about China’s lacking to protect its SLOCs as it could be used as a bargaining chip against it in the context of a wider dispute. The argument is that Indian Navy might use it to impede oil traffic heading to China through the Malacca Strait. Both the countries aim to have a presence in the strategically located Strait where 40 percent of the world’s trade and more than 80 percent of China’s oil imports pass through.

China is not a member of Artic Council, yet has started devoting increasing attention to the political, commercial, and security implications of a much easily navigable Arctic. According to recent reports, the country can be expected to seek an active role in deter­mining the “political framework and legal foundation” for future activates in the high north.

In 2009, China was the largest exporter and second-largest importer of globally shipped goods. As Arctic sea ice melts, two international shipping routes – the Northwest Passage and the Northeast Passage (also known as the Northern Sea Route) – will become increasingly usable for commercial shipping purposes.

China’s access to these alternate shipping routes could have profound impacts on China’s trade and shipping patterns in the future. One of the trade routes which will open up is, the Northeast Passage, which runs along Russia’s northern border from the Bering Strait to Nova Zemlya, is 6,400 kilometres shorter than China’s route to Europe via the Malacca Strait and the Suez Canal which will help China shorten its trade route.

China can benefit from the Northeast Passage because it will provide lower logistical and regulatory costs due to shorter journeys.

According to Dr Guo Peiqing, Associate Professor at the Ocean University of China in Qingdao and a respected expert on Arctic issues, the Northeast Passage “will change the structure of global trade. It may well bring about the emergence of a new, circumpolar super-economic belt made up of Asia, North America and Northern Europe.” Increased use of Northeast Passage would also alleviate dependence on the Malacca Strait, helping to address China’s “Malacca Dilemma.”

With global warming peaking, the melting of the arctic belt can create these alternative routes pushing the prime importance of the Indian Ocean. Which will inversely affect India’s upper hand in the region. To safeguard its importance, India is will have to develop a pre-emptive plan.

MV Xue Long, a second generation Chinese icebreaker, made a trip north to Alaska in order to support China’s growing needs in the Arctic. This indicates china’s tangible interest not being climate change rather an alternative to reduce India’s maritime prominence in its SLOCs.

India can become less important in the global geopolitical arena with better natural resources and sea lines opening for the world in the Arctic. India might also need to develop its weapon strength as lack of interest can lead China to show-off of its military strength as well.

There is an urgent need to develop specific strategies to improve India’s maritime relation with other countries involved in the East China Sea as those sea lanes will become the trading giants then.

The Indian Ocean can lose its marine importance due to the effect of melting of Arctic cap and thus weaken it on the global biodiversity map.

(Image: http://arcticportal.org/)

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British-led Nekton Scientific Mission in Indian Ocean Reaches an End

The oceans' role in regulating climate and the threats they face from global warming are underestimated by many. Scientific missions are crucial in taking stock of underwater ecosystems' health

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A manta ray swims near the submersible during a dive off the coast of the island of St. Joseph in the Seychelles, April 8, 2019. VOA

The British-led Nekton scientific mission on Thursday completed a seven-week expedition in the Indian Ocean aimed at documenting changes beneath the waves that could affect billions of people in the surrounding region over the coming decades.

Little is known about the watery world below depths of 30 meters (yards), the limit to which a normal scuba diver can go. Operating down to 450 meters with manned submersibles and underwater drones off the island nation of the Seychelles, the scientists were the first to explore areas of great diversity where sunlight weakens and the deep ocean begins.

The oceans’ role in regulating climate and the threats they face from global warming are underestimated by many. Scientific missions are crucial in taking stock of underwater ecosystems’ health.

Principal scientist Lucy Woodall called the mission “massively successful,” saying that members believe they have found evidence near several coral islands of a so-called rariphotic zone, or “twilight zone,” located between 130 and 300 meters deep.

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Seychelles President Danny Faure, left, sits inside a submersible on the deck of vessel Ocean Zephyr, off the coast of Desroches, in the outer islands of Seychelles, April 13, 2019. VOA

“The rariphotic zone has been shown in a number of papers in the Atlantic and Caribbean but has never previously been shown in the Indian Ocean,” Woodall said, adding that months of analysis will be needed to confirm the discovery.

In this twilight zone that sunlight barely reaches, photosynthesis is no longer possible and species that cannot move toward the ocean’s surface rely on particles falling from above for sustenance. Woodall also said she was excited to see “vibrant” communities of fish during the mission.

“We’re seeing schools of small fish – that middle of the food chain – but we’re also seeing a large number of big predators – the sharks and all the other fish predators as well that are there. So this shows that protection works,” she said.

With the expedition over, the long work of analysis begins. Researchers conducted over 300 deployments, collected around 1,300 samples and 20 terabytes of data and surveyed about 30 square kilometers (11.5 sq. miles) of seabed using high-resolution multi-beam sonar equipment.

Woodall estimated her team will need up to 18 months of lab work to process and make sense of the data gathered during the expedition. The data will be used to help the Seychelles expand its policy of protecting almost a third of its national waters by 2020. The initiative is important for the country’s “blue economy,” an attempt to balance development needs with those of the environment.

On Sunday, President Danny Faure visited the Nekton team and delivered a striking speech broadcast live from deep below the ocean’s surface, making a global plea for stronger protection of the “beating blue heart of our planet.”

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Little is known about the watery world below depths of 30 meters (yards), the limit to which a normal scuba diver can go. VOA

For Nekton mission director Oliver Steeds, Faure’s visit was a win for the ocean.

“I hope our ability to broadcast live from the ocean has helped put the oceans back on the map in the boardrooms, the corridors of power and in the classrooms,” Steeds said. “That’s where the decisions need to be made to fundamentally secure our future and the improved management and conservation of our ocean.”

He said mission members hope that nations across the Indian Ocean will have the political will to improve the management and conservation of their waters.

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“It’s been an extraordinary aquatic adventure,” Steeds said. “We’re delighted that so many people around the world have been following our progress but it only really matters if the Seychelles can continue to take a lead on the world stage as a beacon of hope for ocean conservation.”

This is the first of a half-dozen regions the mission plans to explore before the end of 2022, when scientists will present their research at a summit on the state of the Indian Ocean. (VOA)