Working in the snow-bound, harsh and hostile environs of the Svalbard archipelago of Norway and focusing on Arctic research, five Indian scientists had an usual caller. It was none other than President Pranab Mukhejee `getting in touch’ via a video link with the researchers who are stationed at India’s `Himadri’ research station in the vast sprawling Arctic region from Oslo, the Norwegian capital.
“It is cold here, but really exciting,” remarked the team leader to the president who is currently on a five-day visit to the Scandinavian countries of Norway and Finland.
The president, in turn, sought to know from the scientists the linkages between changes in the Arctic and climate change as well as the Indian monsoon.
President Mukherjee, whose Norway sojourn marks the first ever visit to that country by an Indian head of state, also wished the scientists success in their audacious adventures as Norwegian king Harald V looked on.
A region of great natural beauty, Svalbard which translates into “cold coasts” in English, is also home to the polar bear.
The presidential outreach to the Himadri scientists was not merely symbolic in nature. For, it also serves to highlight the significance India attaches to the Arctic region, having got permanent observer status in the Arctic Council last year.
According to the ministry of earth sciences, India began its quest for scientifc endeavours in the Arctic region in 2007 when a five-member team of visited the International Arctic Research facilities at Ny-Ålesund, a research town on the Spitsbergen island.
The scientific team initiated three novel scientific projects in the realm of atmospheric science, microbiology, and earth science and glaciology during its month-long stay there.
Thus began the Indian Arctic research story which then took a more permanent shape in the form of `Himadri’ in 2008.
Nearly 200 Indian scientists drawn from various Indian universities and institutions have worked at `Himadri in the years since, according to Navtej Sarna, secretary (west) in India’s Ministry of External affairs.
At any given time five to six Indian scientists are working at the research station, staying there 175 days in a year between the months of march and November
India’s permanent observer status on the Arctic Council underscores the country’s growing interest in the region.
The area is rich in petroleum and mineral resources. India is currently focusing on scientific, technological and earth sciences oriented research. The future is bristling with possibilities. “I certainly would not foreclose any possibilities in regard to whatever benefits the Arctic might offer to the world,” says
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