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China’s polar Silk Road aspiration will be the collision point between Russia and China

The climate change and global warming have created a possibility of human activity in the Arctic. Apart from a possibility of efficient maritime activities Arctic is going to throw open the vast hydrocarbons that lay unexplored in the Arctic. The Arctic is also estimated to contain 13 per cent of the world’s unexplored oil and around 30 per cent of undiscovered gas. Due to that fact that it’s melting commercial shipping and exploration of natural resources will become a reality earlier then it was expected. This exactly is the bone of contention between Russia and china and Russia is going head strong in safeguarding their position as a natural arctic power.

In the course of recent years, China has been trying to put its own diplomatic and economic say on the Arctic, now referred to as the Polar Silk. The establishment of this ‘route’ was to enable and upgrade maritime trade through Arctic Ocean. As the Arctic experienced environmental change and ice disintegration, worldwide trade would be expanded. Beijing for many years was trying to develop improved economic association with far north partners like Africa, Europe and Eurasia, which is the key segment on these trade routes.

The North Pole plays a vital role in the mutually beneficial relationships among the great powers due to its unexplored richness in natural resources. The new trade routes that have emerged in the region have a substantial geopolitical aspect; it saves time and money both. China has been chipping away at building its territorial desire for many years and they even released their ambitious “Arctic Policy in early 2018 that is expected to integrate this region into the new Silk Road project. China needs cooperation and economic investment to improve its far weaker position in the region then USA and Russia.

Russia is a natural Arctic power and believes that arctic is its “privileged sphere of influence” due to the fact that the northern country occupies almost the entire territory to the North of Eurasia except the Scandinavian countries. It shares the longest coastline with the Arctic Ocean. Russia only agrees to acknowledge the dominance of eight Arctic countries in the region and not very keen on non-Arctic powers playing a dominant role in this part of the world. At the top of Russia’s version of Arctic hierarchy are the five Arctic Ocean coastal countries- Canada, Denmark, Norway, Russia, and the United States. Russia believes that this is in line with the international maritime law as the five countries have direct access to the Arctic Ocean, and have Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZs). For Russia, the interests of different nations including the spectator countries, for example, France, Germany, Italy and the Unified Realm in Europe, and India, Japan, South Korea and even China in Asia are at the base of Russian progressive system. This is the place Chinese perspectives vary, and contrast pointedly.

Russia doesn’t like Chinese interference in the Arctic and china wants to claim that Arctic is a part of global commons, mush like the Antarctica. In an indirect dig at China, Russian defense minister in 2015 said that Non-arctic States are using their military and economic power to “strive for greater roles in the Arctic. Russia looks at the melting Polar ice-cap as a clear opportunity to become a superior naval and maritime power that it could not become because of a disadvantageous geography in the post-Soviet era. China however wants to use the upcoming commercial and rich maritime zone to achieve its own geopolitical goals. . In fact, by claiming that Arctic is a common future for the human race; Beijing is conceiving a new world order to establish self as a global superpower. This is a resource-rich region which Russia wants to use as a “strategic resource base” and china doesn’t want to let this go as it is quite a strategic shift for it to grow stronger.

One more important geopolitical aspect of china’s push to gain an equal control, even after being a non-arctic state, of Arctic Sea route is Beijing’s strategy to avoid the Malacca dilemma. The Strait of Malacca is a narrow choke point that divides the Indian and Pacific Oceans. In event of a conflict, India can easily block this narrow passage and deprive China of its oil imports from the Middle East. Currently 80% of china’s oil import is dependent on this passage.

With the new shipping routes opening up due to global warming, China wants to become the country that builds ports and other infrastructure in Nordic-Baltic countries like Finland and Denmark, ultimately making them a part of the Belt and Road initiative. This intent is directly clashing with Russian interest, which sees this as an opportunity to do away with their geographical disadvantage. There could be tons of doubt and pressures between the two Red nations that could play up as fast as the Polar ice in the Arctic melts.

About the author

Deepak Butola
With over 18 years of business management experience, Deepak Butola is a professionally qualified yoga practitioner who believes in the concept of unified mind and body. He is an avid reader and a regular to the half marathon track and has completed over 35 races till now. People, Books and Yoga are the building blocks of his life. Follow him @iamdeepakbutola

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