Changing Security Dynamics in the Arctic and India’s Approach,

Bipandeep Sharma, Research Analyst at the Manohar Parrikar Institute and Uttam Kumar Sinha, Research Fellow at the Manohar Parrikar Institute

[…] Finland and Sweden’s membership of NATO is bound to impact the geostrategic security scenario in the Arctic. First, of the eight Arctic countries within the Arctic Circle (i.e., region above 66° 33’ 44’’ north), five are existing NATO members (Canada, Denmark, Iceland, Norway and United States). With Finland and Sweden’s decision to join NATO, the new security equation in the Arctic will squarely be tilted in favour of the western NATO members with Russia on the other side as the non-NATO member. Practically, this could result in the development and implementation of a new ‘NATO Arctic Policy’ with strategic and security objectives. The changed arrangement may instigate similar counter-response from Russia which could escalate strategic military posturing in the region.

Second, till recently, Russia shared 196 km of direct land border with only one NATO member state, i.e., Norway. Finland joining NATO would result in the addition of 1,340 km of land borders between NATO and Russia. This would drastically alter the strategic threat perception of Russia, owning to the geographical proximity between Helsinki and Russia’s important cities such as St. Petersburg and its key strategic base on the Kola Peninsula, which is the linchpin of its military establishment in the western Arctic. […]

The Russia–Finland border that remained peaceful since World War II, could witness permanent military presence and deployment of excessive military infrastructure. The severity of this could be analysed from Russian President Vladimir Putin’s statement in Turkmenistan emphasising that Russia does not have any territorial or other issues with Sweden and Finland like the one it has with Ukraine. But he simultaneously asserted that “if military contingents and military infrastructure were deployed there, we would be obliged to respond symmetrically and raise the same threats for those territories where threats have arisen for us”. […]

The Arctic Council, the only existing mechanism for cooperation in the region, remains currently suspended. Scientific activities have taken a backseat. The non-Arctic states/observers in the Arctic Council are in a conundrum regarding the future status of the Council. The arguments for the continued working of the Arctic Council ‘without’ Russia further add to the geopolitical complexities. Any such unilateral call would not only widen the insecurity gap, but could also result in split amongst non-Arctic states in the Council. […]

India should call for reviving the Arctic Council as per the fundamental principles of Ottawa Declaration that called for promoting cooperation, coordination and interaction among Arctic states and its indigenous communities on issues of sustainable development and environmental protection. Simultaneously, to meet its own Arctic priorities, India needs to invest in developing its independent polar infrastructure and research base in the region. Developing cooperation with Arctic countries having polar expertise also remains crucial to India’s continued engagement. Läs artikel