The Geo Interview with Professor Andreas Østhagen: The Arctic's Great Game
Updated: Oct 30, 2022
Dr. Andreas Østhagen, Senior Fellow at the Arctic Institute and Professor of International Relations at Bjørknes University College, Norway, speaks with The Geostrata on the coherence of the Arctic as a security community, the imperatives for the EU, the region’s co-optation into great power politics as well as individual security considerations of the Arctic states.
Image Credits: Graphics by Team Geostrata
Asish: Welcome viewers! Today we have another special guest from the North, Dr. Andreas Østhagen, who is a Senior Research Fellow at the Fridtjof Nansen Institute in Oslo, Norway which is a research institute concerned with the international environment, energy resources, management, politics, and law. Dr. Østhagen is also a Senior Fellow at the Arctic Institute, Washington D.C., and also an affiliated Senior Advisor at the High North Center at Nord University Business School; and a Fulbright Fellow at The Polar Institute of the Wilson Center. He's also an Associate Professor of IR at the Bjørknes University College, where he teaches the course ‘Geopolitics of the Arctic.’
Dr. Østhagen: Thank you, thank you for having me.
Asish: Great! So, I would just like to start with this question, what makes you invest so much in terms of academic as well as professional capital into specifically, the Arctic region?
Dr. Østhagen: It’s a two-fold answer to that question. First of all, the changes that have been occurring in the Arctic over the last decade or two require that we study, that we look at the dynamics there and try to describe what’s happening in the Arctic. And at the same time the Arctic is important or has been important for northern countries, for Norway where I am and promise well, for Canada where I have studied or the US where I have lived or for Russia as well, the Arctic has been important for much longer than just a few decades.
So, it makes sense in many ways, also if you live in the north to study security dynamics northwards but its really that the changes that have occurred over the last few decades that have prompted more interest in the Arctic and why the Arctic has become a whole subfield on its own at least in terms of security and geopolitics.
Asish: Great. And I see you have been engaged in a project called OceanGov and in that you have tried to sort of understand the Arctic’s dynamics by combining international law and international relations. Could you tell us something about that as well as the current security position or risk architecture of the Arctic?
Dr. Østhagen: The Ocean Governance project that you referred to is trying to tease out specific ocean governance dynamics in the Arctic that are compared more broadly. If we start with the former, dynamics within the Arctic, it’s going to be important to highlight that or you could at least separate it into three different domains or different dimensions, the one being the intraregional dimensions in the Arctic amongst the Arctic countries.
There are 8 Arctic countries, the 5 Nordic countries: Norway, Finland, Sweden, Iceland and Denmark which is Nordic country via Greenland; these are the 5 Nordic countries, then you have Russia, Canada and United States right, we have 8 Arctic countries and between these countries or amongst them you have cooperation on everything from economic development to dealing with climate change, indigenous affairs, social rescue, etc., and that cooperation has been ongoing for three, four decades now already but due to the increased attention given to the Arctic that relates to climate change, that also relates to say, focus on the resource potential and shipping potential via the Arctic, these countries have collaborated even more, you have new agreements for dealing with potential emergency at the sea or you have agreements on research. The Arctic Council has emerged as this rather important regional fora.
So, to say that on the one level in the international regional level you have a rather positive dynamic amongst the Arctic countries. Of course this has changed a little bit with the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the Arctic Council was suspended for some time and now it’s talking about resumption but without Russia. So, this regional dynamic that had proved rather resilient in the face of conflict elsewhere: 2014 the Russian annexation of Crimea then, the Arctic council still continued its work.
Now, we are seeing more destruction with amongst the Arctic states but still, those fundamental shared interests, those agreements that were signed, like those agreements will be signed in the future highlights how on the Arctic specific level you have a certain set of political dynamics, those are very different from say, the strategic or systemic dynamics that also impact the Arctic region and this is really where the Arctic has become so much more important in the geopolitical sense over the last few years, not because of ice melting really, not because of its economic potential, but because of the Arctic’s location or its geographical location this buffer region between the North America continent, the European content, and Russia, Siberia.
The fact that Russia has been investing a lot in its Northern fleet which is located in the Arctic, which is important to Russia’s strategic ambitions more globally and also the increasing global competition or strategic rivalry between the US and China also has an Arctic component because the US is in the Arctic and China has shown an Arctic interest. The point just being that you need to at least separate between these two different sets of dynamics. The inter-regional and the strategic and then you could even talk about national specific, each specific Arctic country, Norway for example where I am sitting right now and how Norway’s security interest, geopolitical interest might not be the same as the Canadian ones or the Russian ones, that's a long back story but the point being that you have different dynamics at different levels.
What we are trying to do in some of the research that I am doing is to look at, let’s say for example; law of the sea, the primacy of the law of the sea that really is what gives the Arctic countries the rights that they have in the Arctic in many ways that contribute to or underlines the stability of the Arctic region.
Does the presence of the law of the sea or the provisions in the law of the sea, does it have the same effect for example, in the South China Sea or the East China Sea or the Black Sea or the Mediterranean, so it’s of interest naturally to look at the Arctic specifically because of the reasons that I mentioned, but also I think it gets important to tease out the similarities between the Arctic and other parts of the world and perhaps also teased out why the Arctic is relevant to the other parts of world. Because the Arctic is interesting in and of its own but how it links to global competition is also interesting.
Asish: Great! Also, we as students of IR or even as general observers in the Global South, India, and so on, tend to sweep over the Arctic, “its the Arctic region or the Arctic security community”, I know you have written something on this, on the level of analysis and how it is not necessary that the component countries making the Arctic will not always have shared security interests. Iis there really a convergence, and if not then do you see a convergence in this interest calculus of the Arctic countries after the Ukrainian invasion or is it really worthy of being called one single coherent region or how is it playing out in terms of levels of analysis. Could you please throw some light on it for the students of International Relations?
Dr. Østhagen: Yeah, it's a good question, not to become too theoretical but it brings us into the whole idea of what is a region. Inherently we think of it as a geographically bounded part of the world. The Arctic is not really geographically bounded because of its extreme vastness, the size of the Arctic you know it includes three different continents, it's a massive area it’s rather inaccessible and the variation, in climate, population, economic potential, human activity, is also extreme compared to many of the parts of the world you would call a region, but I think there is no doubt that if you are a climate scientist or if you study polar bears or you study say sea ice and how you know the impact of global warming is more generally on the nature at large, nature in the polar region.
If you could definitely define the Arctic as a coherent region, what I am questioning and have questioned in a few of my articles is whether or not that’s valid when it comes to security, not human security or environmental security, and those are highly relevant aspects of security in the Arctic right, maybe even more so than in other parts of the world because of the rapid changes in the Arctic taking place also because the communities are few and sparse and the distances are great but if you look at traditional security, the state security; the fear of survival as a state, does it then makes sense to say that the Arctic is a coherent region, i.e., that the security concerns of the Arctic states are more or less aligned. If you are into a point where there might be ongoing convergence, perhaps as the icing is increasing in the Arctic and you know within a few decades we will have completely ice-free summers in the Arctic and North pole which is a point in the sea. Perhaps that is contributing to a convergence so that Canada, and, say Norway or Russia are kind of operating within the same security region.
Image Credits: time.com
But right now, I'm not really seeing it. I'm seeing that you should at least divide it into seperate domains, I mean on the one hand you have the European part of the Arctic or the North Atlantic part of the Arctic, so then, that includes, of course you know the Nordic countries, I mean Iceland, Denmark, Faroe islands,Norway and to some extend Sweden and Finland, especially now when Sweden and Finland are likely to join NATO any day now and that includes, also Russia. Within that domain, within that security region, if you will, Russia is the main antagonist, Russia is the main security concern for all these Nordic countries, right, that's been the case since the end of the Second World War, it's been how to deal with the Russian neighbor and especially the Russian neighbor that since 2003, 2004, 2005 under Vladimir Putin has been reinvesting in its military capacities in the North, both because of issues in the North and because of strategic issues, nuclear submarines, ballistic missiles etc. as we talked about earlier.
And that region even extends into the down South, into the UK, alright, to get the Scottish General UK interest in the Arctic, links back because of, say security concerns in the UK linked to Russia. And those dynamics are very different than what we see in the North American parts of the Arctic, taking particularly the Canadian North, but also to some extent Alaska, and also to Western parts of Greenland, where Russia is much further away. Yes, Russia is sending now and again some bombers to showcase their capabilities. There's no immediate threat from Russia, there's no fear of invasion, there's no security concern in the same way as you see in the Nordic parts of the Arctic. That's not to say that they are not concerns or issues that these North American Arctic countries need to deal with, but they are of a very different character or very different urgency than what you see in the European Nordic part of the Arctic, and I think it's just important that we think about the geopolitics which inherently is the combination of geography, which in the case of the Arctic is changing, and politics, but with a focus on, say rivalry, chance of conflict, I think it's just important that we recognize different dynamics that takes place in this larger area, that we call the Arctic.
Asish: There is recently a lot of interest in the Arctic from Russia and China in terms of investments, mining, fisheries and so on. How is this being perceived in the Arctic?
Dr. Østhagen: I think that the perception has changed a bit over the years, if we go back 15-20 years when the Arctic was really on the agenda initially in the Arctic countries, not even all of the Arctic countries I think, some were more forward leading than others- Norway, Russia, Canada perhaps the most Arctic engaged countries. There was a lot of optimism, there was this idea that you would have investments, not only from countries external but also internally you would have investments northwards, you know there was talk about oil boon, resource boom in the North, not this idea of, say a resource race that never made sense if you look at ownership and the law of the sea and all those things, but still, there was an optimism and a positive approach when it came to the Arctic investments and also, I think to some extent, also, looking to actors outside the region, especially China, you know, ideas of the Chinese investments in the North being a driver of the positive development.
But alas, that's changed quite a bit over the recent years, I mean the increased global competition you could probably tell me even more about, with China and whether we see it as a bipolar world or you know, just a multi polar world where China is obviously throwing its weight around around more, India is really emerging as well, you know, as a future superpower, even with an Arctic interest, and this idea of the fall of the West, which hasn't really happened and it's probably not going to really happen, and then Russia's belligerency under Vladimir Putin and everything that happened in Ukraine and the combination of all these things I think, have made, also the dividing lines in the Arctic more clear and in the Western countries, which are I mean if you look at the 8 Arctic countries, 7 of them belong to the so called 'West', 7 of them are NATO members, or soon to be NATO members. So there's been much more skepticism of investments especially coming from China, questions about the long term strategic purpose of Chinese investments, geoeconomics, if you will as a concept, you know, using economic means but for geopolitical purposes.
At the same time, I think there's also been a sobering of expectations, not only when it comes to foreign investments, but also nationally in each Arctic country, there has been a realization that there is a lot of potential in the Arctic, might not be a resource boom in the way some envisioned 20 years ago but there's more nuance and more sobriety to it. So, I just think that we've kind of reached a phase that where the initial interest in the Arctic, where everything was described in one liners and there was all this optimism and the hype has turned into, we went into a period of,say a bust idea, and then, you know, people say, "No the Arctic wasn't that interesting after all" And now we're in the more, in the different phase, where there is definitely interest in the Arctic but it's nuanced, and there's different parts of the Arctic, and we're also recognizing that the Arctic also holds a place, not only in terms of resource development and investments, but also in terms of strategic competition, and strategic forces, which then kind of adds to the whole complexity of the region.
Asish: Building on this, it's a conjectural question, do you think the distinctiveness of the Arctic is kind of fading away insofar as the Arctic's co-optation into this clash of countries,like the clash between the USA and Russia-China is concerned. Is the distinctiveness fading? If yes, what does this portend for the Arctic?
Dr. Østhagen: I think that's a very good point you're making, I mean, I would say it is fading, it hasn't faded and I'm not sure it's ever going to completely fade, but I think you're onto something, I think 20 years ago there was a lot of talk about Arctic exceptionalism and how dynamics on that kind of regional level that I talked about in the beginning, how those dynamics could be kept separate from the strategic conflict dynamics deriving from elsewhere. I think we've seen that faded a bit, especially now with the suspension of the Arctic Council and other forms of operations with Russia, it's clear that the Arctic is impacted heavily by conflict in other parts of the world, and it might even be an arena for conflict, if, that were to escalate further, again, not all parts of the Arctic, but the North Atlantic, Barents sea parts of the Arctic are so important strategically for Russia that they can't be separated out in a way of keeping the Arctic completely, say, peaceful or exceptional. But at the same time, there are some characteristics that makes it different than the Caribbean or the Mediterranean or the South China Sea or the Indian Ocean, I mean when it comes to just, as we talked about earlier the sparse population and limited population, the distances in the Arctic, certain challenges, yes, ice is melting, but that doesn't mean that ice is going to go completely away, the conditions are extremely difficult in winter time, summer time as well, fair enough.
But in general, the Arctic is an inhospitable place, difficult to operate in wherein in many ways some of what we see is kind of a zero-sum competition is negated by the characteristics of the Arctics, and this actually benefits in cooperating, if you want to develop shipping lanes, if you want to have an economic mega project for energy, if you want to have sustainable fisheries, if you want to have tourism, if you're interested in research, to figure out what's happening in the Arctic, all of these areas require cooperation also with the countries or actors that you perceive as being on the opposite side, be it Russia or China or others, and I don't see that changing anytime soon because of, inherently the Arctic. But yes, you're right that the Arctic is becoming dragged into more global power politics. And that in a sense also leads to some of its exceptionalism which is never really a good way to describe the Arctic in the first place but it's the idea, the concept that Arctic countries have pushed, the foreign ministers etc. who has argued that the Arctic is an exceptional and that's been a myth that it's not really holding up under scrutiny.
Asish: I see. And also building on this, to what extent has the European Union factored into the security considerations of the Arctic States in its security reports, and how has this been changing recently?
Dr. Østhagen: I think the European Union and its proponents probably would very much like to see a stronger security role played in the Arctic. Right now that role is rather limited, as many of you know who are students of foreign and security policy would know all the problems that come with it; it is not the EU competence exclusive and the EU is still struggling to find its role and purpose and the purpose of the EU has been developing of the last decade is more focused policing or softer sides of security or contributing to those dimensions and yes, also having some form of rapid reaction deployment capacity; I mean that's what's being discussed now and you could definitely argue Ukraine has is many ways accelerated EU’s security developments but not with a direct Arctic link or the Arctic component. I mean if you look at which EU members are in the Arctic of course it's been Sweden and Finland. And Sweden and Finland now joining NATO is perhaps the ultimate signal of how the vision between the EU and NATO is seen. That NATO is the ultimate security guarantee, the EU is something else.
Perhaps it could be more integrational in that sense, but I think in terms of dealing with the main security concerns of the Nordic countries which inherently is beyond Canada and the US and Canada have this special bilateral relationship with the US. So Nordic countries have a security concern with Russia; how to deal with Russia is primarily through NATO. But perhaps you couldn't wish for the EU to take a role as a mediator or a role as the instigating track for dialogue. But I think that's even more difficult with the 27 member states trying to find common approaches to things.
So, for now, I think the EU’s role in the Arctic in terms of security is more dealing with the softer side of things; having the capacity for emergency response, having sharing of information also in terms of security and intelligence and maybe trying to if you will raise awareness and all that sorts of things that has an economic or financial dimension. But if you are talking about the fear of Chinese investments in the Arctic that's not an Arctic-specific problem, it is a western-European-specific problem. And what are these investments for, maybe there is some unwarranted fear and speculation and somewhere it is warranted; there I think the EU has a role in coordinating amongst the European countries, sharing information, sharing best practices and even trying to have some form of regulation that has relevance to the Arctic and it may be especially needed in the Arctic because of the vulnerability of some other communities in the Arctic. So I see the EU’s role more along those dimensions.
Asish: Great. And I would now like to bring you to the Indo Pacific a bit. This question might be provocative for an Indian audience, but we discussed how we are making sweeping statements about the Arctic. Nowadays, with regards to this construct called the Indo-Pacific; we are speaking of a very wide range of geography as a sort of potential block which could be co-opted into the rules-based international order or international law and whatever that comes along with it. So, do you see a similarity in how theorists and politicians are brushing over the Arctic region and the Indo Pacific? Can we draw some parallels? And what does this portend for the confrontation between the West and Russia-China going forward?
Dr. Østhagen: That's a complex question. Perhaps, because one of my arguments has been the nuance of these sweeping generalizations, I am hesitant when it comes to the Indo-Pacific or even South East Asia or South Asia, you know what does that actually mean, what are we talking about. And, from a regional perspective, I would assume that the general audience tends to think of regions far away, you know if you say South Asia or the Indian Ocean, then people would have very little understanding of the complexities and nuances there and tend to describe them in one-liners as well. One region that is linked to that is South East Asia; and the complex that we have seen emerged there over the last few decades and they tend to be described in very similar, you know, one-liner headlines. So, I think maybe this is a problem very general in international relations or for those of us who are doing empirical work in International Relations.
Yes, we can talk about theory. But I find theory only relevant or interesting if it is describing and helps to solve an empirical real-world problem. I am trying to do relevant research describing contemporary dynamics. And our job inherently, as a scholar in Norway or the Arctic is to explain to the wider audience, the people who only have time to read the headlines explain the complexities and nuances. And I think this is a job we have to do anywhere. But I think still what is fascinating about the study of regions in itself is that you can draw parallels although my whole argument here is that they are distinct and unique in their own right, but they are also influenced by wider global dynamics. So the question becomes then you know, how does the strategic competition between US and China, how does that materialize in these sub-regions of international affairs.
How does that global rivalry play countries up against each other, here you would be much more of an expert than I am in terms of explaining the Indo-Pacific or the role of various Asian sub-regions in this. So that's a fascinating dimension. And then what I mentioned earlier as well, that is to separate out the overarching, the US and China might end up in a geopolitical struggle over allegiances and resources and who gets to invest in specific regions; separate those specific things from the region-specific dimensions. Whether it's the law of the sea or resources, some have argued that what is actually important if you look at the resources in the sea is not oil and gas; it's fisheries which is much more important. Fisheries are much more important and much more of a driver of conflict than oil and gas in the South China Sea, and that's one dimension.
Bring out and recognize those specific things as well. And then you could even zoom down one level further and look at what’s actually the specific and national security interests of each country, which are of course influenced by overarching strategic dynamics. In the case of India, right, of course India has to play a role and take a position to balance out the China-US rivalry. Of course, India has to play a certain role within the regional dynamics, whether as a great power trying to secure its interests there, but also, India has national and security interests that are often related to domestic concerns, and it often tries to do multiple things at once. And I think it’s our job as foreign policy analysts to convey a more complex picture of the world, but to try to do that in a simple manner: that’s the challenge.
Asish: Thank you. You talked a lot about China in this answer and that’s very relevant. Building on that, do you think that China might or is mobilizing the Arctic as an alternative route to Europe and the West, like a launchpad or something of that sought?
Dr. Østhagen: No, not per se, I mean the Northern Sea Route which is the primary or most immediate way if you just look at the transportation. It’s not a complete alternative, right, it is not an option to stop shipping via the Malacca strait or the Suez canal, or elsewhere. It’s an addition for highly specialized products. An addition that leads to Russian-Chinese cooperation. It might in many ways actually serve more of a geo-economic call for increased cooperation or collaboration between those two countries: Russia and China, which kind of finds its economic expression through the Northern Sea Route, not so much for geopolitical purposes as for purely financial and economic ones.
So, in terms of the Northern sea route, I see it along that dimension. If you look at the wider conceptual way of seeing Chinese engagement with Europe, the Arctic is just one component right, Europe is so many different things, Portugal or says most Mediterranean countries care little about the Arctic or they care about it but not much in the same way as they care about what happens in the Mediterranean or North Africa which conveys a completely different set of analytical dynamics. If China wants to engage with those countries or engage with those issues, it has to engage there in the North.
But, it is an avenue for political influence, for political engagement with Nordic countries definitely, with Canada definitely, and with the US I think it’s a whole different ball game. And of course, Russia which I have already mentioned and I think it’s a natural expression also of China’s global role that is going to be increasing and China throwing its weight around. So, the fact that it is showing its interest in the Arctic when the Arctic is increasing its strategic importance in itself actually contributes to more interest in the Arctic which then increases the Arctic’s strategic importance, so it is an upwards or downwards; you see its spiral effect linked to China. I think it's unavoidable but that doesn't mean there needs to be a conflict with China over the Arctic or in the Arctic. I think there are ways to alleviate those concerns and it's important to highlight that China is not a Nordic country, doesn't have an Arctic territory, doesn’t have the same Arctic capacities or capabilities as the Arctic countries do. So, it's perhaps the Chinese threat to the Arctic is a bit exaggerated or hyped if you will, but it is definitely of interest right because it links to a more global expression of rising power.
Asish: Just out of curiosity what might be the role of Sweden or Norway and the other Arctic States in countering the Chinese making inroads Into the Arctic in a way that might not in the future favor the Arctic as we have seen in Sri Lanka, in Africa, and so on.
Dr. Østhagen: I think we talked a bit about it already: the need for clear regulation and clear control over investments, transparency and avoiding investments or avoiding opening up for investments or economic ventures that might put the country's national interests or countries regional noble interests at risk, that's one approach to it and the approach that I think is being formulated or being discussed right now in nordic countries, Nordic countries being small countries but also being rather of high capacity, highly regulated countries with large bureaucracy, lot of resources that in many ways should be able to formulate proper policy to deal with those things.
Perhaps, but in a different state that’s some of the countries all across the world that have had to deal with Chinese increased interest or engagement, and at the same time I think it's not necessarily a competition or a strategic zero-sum thing. There can also be ways of including China in Arctic developments, whether it's through research, whether it's through Law of the Sea developments, where China is the legitimate actor, and by including China for example in the Arctic ocean Fisheries agreement that was recently agreed, signed between five Arctic Council states but then five more or less external actors one of them being China and the rationale is not only that Chinese fishing fleets would eventually be active in the Arctic but also that including China in the Arctic governance structures also commits China in some ways and that’s not bad for China, that’s not bad for the Arctic. It’s a way of actually not seeing everything as a competition. So, yeah that’s the multiple avenues to my question.
Asish: And lastly Dr. Østhagen, how is India being perceived in the Arctic, and what might be its role in terms of your expectations or the Arctic’s expectations going forward?
Dr. Østhagen: I think the Indian interest in the Arctic, I mean you just launched, I don’t know if you were a part of it, but the Indian government just launched its Arctic Policy, I think there is a lot of interest in it. So, India is definitely a newcomer in many ways, China has shown its Arctic interest for a long time, and other countries as well, and India is more of a newcomer although it has been part of the Arctic governance structures, the Arctic Council as an observer for a while. So, I think in general there is this idea in the Arctic community, amongst Arctic experts, amongst the researchers like myself, bureaucrats of the Arctic countries, there is this positive approach towards other countries showing an interest in the Arctic because a lot of problems in the Arctic, relating to climate change or resources that are changing or pollution, etc. these are the problems that can’t be solved in the Arctic.
You can’t ban activity in the Arctic and think that’s going to solve it, the problems are made elsewhere, they are made in Europe, Brussels, London, or in India like in New Delhi or in Beijing in China. So, the point being that it's also a global issue or set of issues, so I think having the world's second-largest country or largest country, in terms of population, having that involved and engaged in Arctic matters, of course, I think that’s seen as very positive because I think a lot of India’s Arctic interest comes from research or research interest primarily but same time you also have the security dimension and the kind growth of India, that’s a great power, or an eventual global superpower, inevitable superpower; I think that’s for you to tell me but also in the same way we talked about China: Chinese interest in the Arctic mentioned back in 2010, 2011 and everyone or most people didn’t think much about the Chinese interest in the Arctic.
“It's okay if the Chinese are interested. It's fine but might provide some positive capacity to the Arctic’s political interest, fine but not gonna change much more.” And then you fast-forward a decade and then you see the waive talk about China in the Arctic today with some skepticism but also some optimism, some might say that we could collaborate more with China and also some interested with what China wants in the Arctic. Perhaps, it’s not difficult to see the kind of a similar path by India, not necessarily in terms of this antagonistic inherent competition that we are seeing between the West and China but at least in the same trajectory, that small steps taken now by India when it comes to an interest in the Arctic eventually materialize to get a larger and larger group of Arctic experts in India, some related to climate change and research, some to economic development participating in Northern Sea route aspects, mineral gas development but also some with a security focus. thinking about how the Arctic figures in India’s global outlook, and India’s strategic and security outlook. Can the arctic play a role there? What about submarines? What about naval vessels? What about larger, say, competition that takes the form of diplomacy and not necessarily only boots on the ground. And that’s going to be fascinating to follow. So, I am very curious to see how India’s Arctic role progresses in the future. So keep me updated on that.
Asish: So, Okay that was the penultimate question. This is the last and this is about something personal. I’ll tell you what, I actually talked to a few people, my friends and family about what they think about the Arctic before this interview. They said before, like 10 years before, when they thought about the Arctic, it was about Christmas trees. It was about ice. It was about Santa Claus. Recently, there has been a change in how people perceive the Arctic in India. It is about opportunities, melting ice, climate change, threat, opportunities, Indian interest and all of that. And you have extensively covered the Arctic concern. So, how can we sort of channelise all of this research and how can we feed all of this into policy structures and governance structures in a way that actually acknowledges the nuances of the Arctics, of regions and in a way that we have geopolitics which is sustainable given the climate change, environmentalism and all of these concerns. If you could please make a concluding remark on this, Dr. Osthagen.
Dr. Østhagen: Yeah, I would try to be brief. I think it's along two dimensions. On one hand, India’s Arctic debate that you have in New Delhi or Mumbai or other parts of India on the Arctic needs to increase. Things like specific workshops, and seminars with Arctic-interested experts and scholars who are interested in international affairs and might also have an interest in the Arctic including policy makers and decision-makers in the Indian government who actually write things on the Arctic policy. And I think that's the open way to go and it may sound boring but it is an academic approach that actually also has value. The more seminars and workshops you have, the more policy briefs and papers you write.
Not only by us in the Arctic but also by Indian scholars and Indian experts. Doing that at random with Arctic countries and arctic scholars but also developing that expertise in your country is the way to go. And at the same time, you also need to have those very same arctic experts and arctic scholars in India being connected to the arctic environment like here in Norway or the parts of the Arctic. Coming on the research visits, being visiting scholars and having seminars here with Indian Officials is also an approach to take. So, there's going to be a duality of just getting more Arctic in India and more Indians in the Arctic, if you will. And it's a long-slow process but is an accumulation of knowledge and accumulation of experts. And then eventually you get a much more informed debate and informed policy.
Asish: Thank you so much, Dr.Osthagen. Just to recap for our audience, so the Arctic is a region which deserves a lot of nuance in discourse and just like the Indo-Pacific, if I may push that point and going forward I think the Indian Arctic Policy needs to be shaped upon these conversations between people from the Arctics, people from India and so on. So, Thank you Dr. Østhagen and we hope that you have a great rest of your today!
Dr. Østhagen: Thank you. Please be in touch if I can be of any assistance.
Watch the entire interview on the Geostrata's YouTube page
BY ASISH SINGH
IN CONVERSATION WITH DR. ANDREAS ØSTHAGEN, SENIOR FELLOW AT THE ARCTIC INSTITUTE AND PROFESSOR OF INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS AT BJØRKNES UNIVERSITY COLLEGE, NORWAY
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