South Asia and Beyond

Russia, China Hope Route Gives Them Strategic Edge

NEW DELHI: The opening up of the Arctic Circle for shipping due to Global warming could have major commercial and geostrategic implications, believes Daisuke Kawai, Project Assistant Professor and Deputy Director, Economic Security Research Program at the Research Center for Advanced Science and Technology, University of Tokyo. Professor Kawai, who was in New Delhi to attend the 2023 edition of the Indo Pacific Regional Dialogue hosted by the Indian Navy and the National Maritime Foundation, told Ramananda Sengupta that if the northern sea route, as it is also known, became ice free through the year, it would provide a shorter shipping route between northeast Asia and Europe, reducing transit time from Asia by at least 40 percent compared to the route that goes via the Suez Canal. It would also allow access to the huge deposits of oil, gas and mineral resources in the region, which would impact the global energy markets. Arctic coastal states like Russia would gain tremendously from this as well as from transit fees and other charges. Russia is already building a port there in which China has a 30 per cent stake, and all this could disrupt the global economic order, he said. China calls the Northern Sea Route as the Ice Silk Route. More than 80 per cent of Japan’s oil and gas is imported, and this could obviously impact the country’s energy security, he said. Given that Japan endorsed US sanctions against Russia over the Ukraine invasion, it would obviously have political implications, he said. Other nations in the region could face similar issues, he noted. While currently the route is only open for around 80 days in a year, if the route becomes open through the year, it would give Russia and China a distinct geostrategic and economic edge. Would it also change the relevance of the Indo Pacific as the world shifts its attention northwards? Listen to the full interview to find out.

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