After a lengthy courtship, China and India formalized their relationship with the Arctic Council in May 2013 by gaining admission as official observer states. In the months since, both countries have been actively seeking influence with the Council’s permanent members to further establish footholds in a region certain to emerge as a central arena of 21st century geopolitics, scientific research and commerce. But while public statements out of Beijing and New Delhi since May have often cited climate change research as the primary driver of the two countries’ Arctic engagement, the real underlying motive remains securing access to the region’s greatest natural treasure: energy.
In recent years, the U.S. Geological Survey has estimated that the polar north may hold up to 13 percent of the world’s undiscovered oil resources – potentially as many as 160 billion barrels-and as much as 30 percent of the world’s untapped natural gas supplies.
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