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Mainstream, VOL LI, No 20, May 4, 2013

How Best to Exploit Arctic Resources in National Interest

Saturday 4 May 2013

by M.N. Sharma

According to foreign experts, Russian researchers have collected sufficient data through their probes to substantiate the boundaries of Russia’s continental shelf. Following a three-month-long geological-and-physical expedition Arctic-2012 to validate the outer boundaries of the Russian continental shelf, researchers gathered more than 22,000 rock samples from the floor of the Arctic Ocean. All these samples were found to be of local origin and not deposited by current. The results of the ocean floor seismic exploration point to the fact that the nature of the Mendeleev Ridge is similar to the continental structures.

The Russian assessments flowing from these results coincide with those of the US scientific investigations. In particular, the evaluation of analysis data of the latest expeditions into the high latitudes on Icebraker Healey made US researchers change their former assessments regarding the geological nature of the Lomonosov Ridge and Mendeleev Ridge. At present, experts of the US Arctic Research Commission are inclined to admit that the Arctic underwater mountain chains are of continental, but not volcanic, character.

Against this backdrop dismissal of the second Russian application is bound to be considered a politically motivated move capable of under-mining the main principles of international maritime law.

None of the Subarctic states will ever allow uncontrolled mining operations in its zone. As a consequence, countries without direct outlet to the waters of the Arctic Ocean would most probably be either totally deprived of the opportunity to exploit the deposits of the Arctic Region or would have to cooperate with the US, Canadian, Danish, Norwegian, and Russian companies on evidently unprofitable terms.

Among all the Arctic states Russia is politically the most trouble-free and time-tested partner of India. By supporting Moscow’s position now, New Delhi would significantly consolidate its chances to gain access to the richest Russian shelf deposits. Conversely if it misses the opportunity to conclude an alliance with Russia in the current situation, New Delhi runs the risk of being outstripped by Beijing on this score; needless to add that China’s economic potentialities still surpass those of India and Beijing’s geographic position offers more advantages of exploiting the Arctic resources to satisfy the raw material needs.

It is high time New Delhi sets right its priorities in this regard.

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