Explained: How China is Taking Advantage of COVID-19 in Antarctica

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COVID-19 in Antarctica :Western nations have pulled back, the Russians and Chinese have maintained their activities on the continent in this period and are fighting for more access to fishing, oil reserves, and mining

New Delhi (ABC Live India):  COVID-19 in Antarctica : Today, when we think of Antarctica we visualize it as a virgin continent having vital role in maintaining the ecosystem of our mother earth, but various scientific reports confirmed that its melting is symbolic of the current global environmental crisis.

The International disputes over the land and sea is increasing day by days, the Geopolitical observers see the Antarctica as a next potential geopolitical issue of coming years.

Antarctica may be the only continent that hasn’t been physically hit by the pandemic, but it remained the active playground for geopolitical play Between the United States & Allies Vs China & Russia.

The Atlantic reports Australia, which dedicated nearly $190 million for its 2020–21 Antarctic programs and is one of the most significant players on the continent, forced to reduce its research program there. Kim Ellis, the director of the Australian Antarctic Division, told us that the number of researchers and station workers, who are usually sent for the summer season, from October to February, would be cut by about half, from 300 people to 150 to 160. This means decreased operational capacity; delays in new, major projects and infrastructure development; and a limited ability to recruit and train new teams for research. Both the British Antarctic Survey and the United States Antarctic Program are also facing challenges. The U.S. National Science Foundation, which allocated $488 million of its 2019–20 budget for the polar regions, says that “there will no doubt be implications for the next austral-summer field season,” according to Stephanie Short, the NSF’s point person for the Antarctic.

Also Not only could the cutbacks delay important research on rising sea levels and the effects of climate change, but they also leave a door open for great-power competition that has been playing out across the globe—as Western nations have pulled back, the Russians and Chinese have maintained their activities on the continent in this period and are fighting for more access to fishing, oil reserves, and mining. Even before the pandemic, many experts we spoke with said Russia and China were using the guise of scientific research to stake further claim on the continent. Now they think that the two countries could be taking advantage of the COVID-19 crisis to extend their reach even more.

China and Russia “will probably seek to maintain and even increase their Antarctic activities, especially if traditional Antarctic states begin to scale back their activities on the continent.

The ABC Geopolitical research team reported that the then the United States Trump administration had presented a national security and defense strategy for the polar regions. Titled Memorandum of Safeguarding U.S. National Interests in the Arctic and Antarctic region, it was the first time that strategic issues in both polar regions were treated in tandem.

Know How Antarctic Treaty System Governs Antarctica

The Antarctic Treaty and related agreements, collectively known as the Antarctic Treaty System (ATS), regulate international relations with respect to Antarctica, Earth's only continent without a native human population. It was the first arms control agreement established during the Cold War, setting aside the continent as a scientific preserve, establishing freedom of scientific investigation, and banning military activity; for the purposes of the treaty system, Antarctica is defined as all the land and ice shelves south of 60°S latitude. Since September 2004, the Antarctic Treaty Secretariat, which implements the treaty system, is headquartered in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

The main treaty was opened for signature on December 1, 1959, and officially entered into force on June 23, 1961.

The original signatories were the 12 countries active in Antarctica during the International Geophysical Year (IGY) of 1957–58: Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Chile, France, Japan, New Zealand, Norway, South Africa, the Soviet Union, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

As of 2019, the treaty has 54 parties including India, who had joined this treaty on Aug 19, 1983 and given other parties with consulting status on September 12, 1983.

As per treaty there are five statuses of parties

 Parties with consulting status making a claim to Antarctic territory

 Parties with consulting status reserving the right to make a territorial claim

 Other parties with consulting status

 Parties without consulting status

 Non-party UN member states and observers

Read a summary on the Cool Antarctica website: Cool Antarctica: Antarctic Treaty Summary

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