Monday February 18, 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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Scientists Prepare To Explore Uncharted Indian Ocean

The mission’s principal scientist, Lucy Woodall of Oxford University, said the researchers expect to discover dozens of new species.

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Indian Ocean
In this image taken from drone video, the Ocean Zephyr is docked in Bremerhaven, Germany, Wednesday Jan. 23, 2019. VOA

Scientists prepared Thursday to embark on an unprecedented, years-long mission to explore the Indian Ocean and document changes taking place beneath the waves that could affect billions of people in the surrounding region over the coming decades.

The ambitious expedition will delve into one of the last major unexplored frontiers on the planet, a vast body of water that’s already feeling the effects of global warming. Understanding the Indian Ocean’s ecosystem is important not just for the species that live in it, but also for an estimated 2.5 billion people at home in the region — from East Africa, the Arabian peninsula, South and Southeast Asia.

The Nekton Mission, supported by over 40 organizations, will conduct further dives in other parts of the Indian Ocean over three years. The research will contribute to a summit on the state of the Indian Ocean planned for late 2021.

The Ocean Zephyr is preparing to leave Bremerhaven, Germany, on the first leg of trip. Researchers will spend seven weeks surveying underwater life, map the sea floor and drop sensors to depths of up to 2,000 meters (6,560 feet) in the seas around the Seychelles.

Indian ocean
FILE – An undated and unplaced handout photo obtained from the Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) on Dec. 3, 2015, shows Havila Harmony, one of three ships scouring the southern Indian Ocean for the remains of missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370. (VOA)

Little is known about the watery world below depths of 30 meters (100 feet), which scientists from Britain and the Seychelles will be exploring with two crewed submarines and a remotely operated submersible in March and April.

Ronny Jumeau, the Seychelles’ ambassador to the United Nations, said such research is vital to helping the island nation understand its vast ocean territory.

While the country’s 115 islands together add up to just 455 square kilometers (176 sq. miles) of land — about the same as San Antonio, Texas — its exclusive economic zone stretches to 1.4 million square kilometers (540 million square miles) of sea, an area almost the size of Alaska.

Jumeau said the Seychelles aims to become a leader in the development of a “blue economy” that draws on the resources of the ocean. The archipelago relies on fishing and tourism, but has lately also been exploring the possibility of extracting oil and gas from beneath the sea floor.

“Key to this is knowing not only what you have in the ocean around you, but where it is and what is its value,” he said. “It is only when you know this that you can properly decide what to exploit and what to protect and leave untouched.”

Indian ocean
Gunner Richard Brown (L) of Transit Security Element looks through binoculars as he stands on lookout with other crew members aboard the Australian Navy ship HMAS Perth as they continue to search for missing Malaysian Airlines flight MH370 in this picture released by the Australian Defence Force April 10, 2014. 

“Research expeditions such as the Nekton Mission are therefore vital to help us fill those gaps and better know our ocean space and marine resources to make wise decisions in planning the future of our blue economy,” Jumeau added.

The island nation of fewer than 100,000 people is already feeling the effects of climate change, with rising water temperatures bleaching its coral reefs.

“Our ocean is undergoing rapid ecological transformation by human activities,” said Callum Roberts, a marine conservation biologist at the University of York, England, who is a trustee of the mission.

“Seychelles are a critical beacon and bellwether for marine conservation in the Indian Ocean and globally,” he said.

Also Read: Communication of Coral Eating Starfish can save Coral Reefs: Scientists

The mission’s principal scientist, Lucy Woodall of Oxford University, said the researchers expect to discover dozens of new species, from corals and sponges to larger creatures like types of dog-sharks.

The Associated Press is accompanying the expedition and will provide live underwater video from the dives, using new optical transmission technology to send footage from the submarines to the ship and from there, by satellite, to the world. (VOA)