Indian scientific mission hoists Tricolour at South Pole

Indian scientific mission hoists Tricolour at South Pole

Eyeing Antarcticas rich resources, Delhi marks presence in continent

Indian scientific mission hoists Tricolour at South Pole

“I am on top of the world though actually I am at the bottom of the world. There is nothing here except miles and miles of snow everywhere,” team leader Rasik Rabindra said jubilantly over his Iridium satellite phone, hours after reaching the South Pole.

 Rasik Rabindra The 62-year-old glaciologist , who came out from his tent to use his satellite phone, said temperature at the southern-most point of the planet was hovering around minus 70 degrees Celsius. Rabindra heads the National Centre for Antarctic and Ocean Research in Goa.

The team took almost 10 days to reach the pole from Maitri—the Indian station on the edge of the continent—traversing about 2,350 km through an icy terrain. The scientists encountered five crevasses en route to the pole and collected ice cores and scientific data.

However, science was not the real objective behind India’s maiden expedition to the South Pole. It is the global geopolitics.

Antarctica is one of the world’s biggest reserve for natural resources, which nobody can access at the moment due to the United Nations Antarctic Treaty that describes it as the common heritage for the mankind.

But the international treaty will be open and up for negotiation in 2040. And countries are trying to anticipate what kind of conditions may come up when discussion starts on on resource sharing. A presence at the South Pole could be one such condition.

Antarctica holds 75 per cent of the world’s fresh water. It is also estimated to hold very large deposits of minerals, oil (about 45,000 million barrels and roughly 115 trillion cubic feet of gas) and coal (about 11 per cent of the world’s total deposits).

Since a lot is at stake, India is  not willing to leave a blank at  the South Pole. But it does not have any plan to go again.

“We may not have another South Pole expedition in near future,” said Shailesh Nayak, secretary in the ministry of earth sciences that has been conducting Antarctica expeditions since 1981.

Even though an Indian Navy team reached the South Pole two years ago and an Army team is on its way to reach the pole on January 15, these are considered “adventure sports” and may not add any value to Indian’s claim on the negotiation table.

The Indian expedition was undertaken at a time when the polar region has sunlight for 24 hours. The team will start their return journey on Wednesday and hope to reach Maitri on the first week of December.

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