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India pushes for visibility in Arctic
Kabir Taneja  New Delhi | 15th Jun 2013

ndia, which recently joined the Arctic Council as a permanent Observer member, has started to increase its visibility in the region. Foreign Minister Salman Khurshid became the first minister from the new members of the Council to visit the Arctic region last week along with his Norwegian counter-part Espen Barth Eide. Khurshid re-affirmed India's commitment to the latest frontier in global geopolitics.

India applied for the Arctic Council membership in February this year and this newspaper was the first to report it. During Khurshid's visit, India has also pledged over $12 million for scientific research in the region in future. Khurshid is visiting Norway, where India has a research station, named Himadri.

The Arctic, which is known to hold more than 20% of the global oil and gas reserves, has become both the most anticipated area for oil exploration and production and the most contested territorial dispute within the Arctic states. Tensions between countries such as Russia, US and Canada have prevailed in the past over Moscow's abrasive manner of claiming territorial rights in the region.

India has also pledged over million for scientific research in the region in future.

"We see the area of oil and gas as a possible area of growth between India and Norway," said Syed Akbaruddin, spokesperson for the Ministry of External Affairs.

"Norway is the third largest exporter of oil after Saudi Arabia and Russia. Also it has expertise in deep sea oil extraction. So, there will be areas of cooperation, and with that we could learn from Norway some of the best practices that they adopt in that area."

However, experts believe that dealing in oil and gas exploration in the arctic region is extremely high risk, both in terms of geographical location and the financial power required to extract the natural resources, which are mostly located in the deep and ultra-deep waters of the Arctic Sea.

"Investing in the Arctic is not easy, cheap or very safe as far as capital goes at the moment," says an energy expert. "The Arctic is still relatively unmapped on where and how deep the reserves are and it will take some time before these studies will be completed. Over these, countries still need to decide on a framework on how the region will be governed."

ONGC Videsh Limited (OVL), a wholly owned subsidiary of ONGC, has shown keen interest to invest in Russia's ambitious oil and gas projects in the Arctic. OVL has written to Russian state oil company Rosfnet in May expressing interest in taking stake in one of the three joint ventures. OVL has also suggested if Rosfnet is unable to accommodate OVL in these three projects, it would look to join the 12 Arctic shelf fields that Russia plans to offer later in the year.

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