Power struggle in the Arctic
The Arctic Ocean is in the news these days due to the power struggle between various powers to control it. There is a rush to claim unclaimed territories, unclaimed ocean and land territories. The main objective of the powers is to acquire trade routes and explore hidden resources. Global warming has made the North Pole more accessible and has enabled new research and economic activities.
According to US Geological Survey estimates, there are 90 billion barrels of oil, 47 billion cubic meters of natural gas, and 44 billion barrels of liquid natural gas in the region. The region has a third of the world’s hydrocarbon resources. According to Global Times, the United States portrays Russia and China as rivals and, with the appointment of a new ambassador to the Arctic region, is bringing conflict to the Pacific North Pole. The Russians in their area of responsibility get 85.1 trillion cubic meters of gas and 17.3 billion tons of oil. Russia supplies India with Arctic liquefied natural gas and also plans to develop a combined arms force in the Arctic region to protect its interests.
On the other hand, the United States is increasing its military power to counter China and Russia. In 2013, the United States announced its national strategy for the Arctic region. According to American officials, the United States must protect its national security being one of the Arctic nations and has a strong economic interest and also to fight against climate change. The United States is also considering buying Greenland from Denmark. The United States has signed a number of agreements with Denmark regarding Thule Air Base. The base is the northernmost US Space Force base on the northwest coast of Greenland. China claims to be 1500 kilometers from the Arctic Circle so declared a state, closer to the North Pole and “Near Arctic State”.
The Polar Silk Road, part of China’s Belt and Road initiative, is its focus. China is looking for a potential arctic route or maritime silk route that connects China to Rotterdam, the Netherlands. This route will be much shorter for the transport of energy via the Indian Ocean and the Suez Canal. According to Brookings, China has sent high-level figures to the region 33 times over the past two decades to discover more economic projects and scientific facilities.
Alaska makes the United States the Arctic nation and is critical to United States national security as it closes the United States’ location to the center of the northern hemisphere. It is closer to the Bering Strait and the great route between North America and Asia. NATO chief Stoltenberg said “Russia has stepped up its activities in the resource-rich region, reopening Soviet-era bases and testing new advanced weapons.” According to the NATO chief, “the Arctic is of great importance to NATO and the Western alliance must prioritize its military presence in the polar region”. With melting snow/glaciers due to climate change, hidden mines/minerals have made access easy. With the ice melting, the area will be used as a trade route and has opened up more territory for cultivation.
The United States and its allies are doing their best to contain Russia and China. The United States views China as an outsider in the region that calls itself a near-Arctic power. The US Indo-Pacific Command (USINDOPACOM) is responsible for the Antarctic region and also monitors the Arctic region. India has released its Arctic policy emphasizing science diplomacy, exploration and efforts to deepen cooperation between India and countries in the region. India is one of 13 nations with observer status in the Arctic Council.
Issues with the region are addressed by the Arctic Council (United States, Russia, Canada, Finland, Sweden, Denmark, Norway and Iceland), in addition to issues of indigenous peoples. In the case of Pakistan, in the 1990s it became the first country in the Islamic world to send its expeditions to the Antarctic region. Pakistan has established two scientific research centers, Jinnah Antarctic Station I and II, as well as a meteorological station. Pakistan was a member of the exclusive Antarctic Treaty of 2011. Pakistan must again work actively with Arctic nations for research purposes.