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India Could Count on Russian Icebreakers to Ensure Year-Round Trade Along Northern Sea Route

© Sputnik / Pavel LvovProject 21900M diesel-electric icebreaker Novorossiysk in the harbor in Murmansk. File photo.
Project 21900M diesel-electric icebreaker Novorossiysk in the harbor in Murmansk. File photo. - Sputnik India, 1920, 01.03.2024
Following trade disruptions in the Red and Arabian Sea Regions due to tensions between Yemen's Houthis and the US-led multinational naval alliance, the demand for an alternative route connecting Asia to Europe has grown in recent months.
India is actively pursuing the Northern Sea Route (NSR) with Russia as the South Asian nation plans to use it for trade purposes with Europe, a strategic affairs analyst has said.
The comments of Major General (Retd) Shashi Bhushan Asthana came hours after Russian President Vladimir Putin urged foreign countries to partner with Moscow in transforming NSR into a global transport corridor.
"We invite foreign logistics companies and states to use the opportunities of the Northern Sea Route - a global transport corridor. Last year, 36 million tons of cargo passed along the Northern Sea Route - this is already five times more than the record figure from the times of the Soviet Union," Putin said in his State of the Nation address to the Federal Assembly on Thursday.
In this light, Asthana, a former Indian Army veteran and a geopolitical commentator, highlighted that the Northern Sea Route is an important route, connecting the East and Western parts of the Arctic Ocean as compared to the Suez Canal corridor that connects the Mediterranean Sea to the Red Sea.

Russian Nuclear-Powered Ice-Breakers Crucial For Year-Round Operations

He pointed out that with the disruptions that have been caused in the Red Sea and the Suez Canal, there is an urgent need for an alternate route. The only problem with the NSR is icebergs and because of the icebergs, what is required is that one needs very strong snow-cutting ships and Russia has got the best of the nuclear-powered ice-breaking fleet.
Asthana noted that this route is generally available from July to November and if one wants to use it throughout the year, then one needs the Russian nuclear-powered ice-breakers. Therefore, what is happening is - yes, this going to be a big alternative and certainly this provides an alternative for the Southeast Asian countries as well as South Asian nations.

"As the NSR would be a shorter route to the West, all these countries are set to benefit because Russians are now looking to expand their economic footprint in Asia - the Eurasian country's oil exports to the continent have risen significantly after Moscow's Special Military Operation in Ukraine, and it's in the interest of India also," Asthana told Sputnik India on Friday.

The international relations pundit stressed that in the recent past, at least since last year, India's imports of oil from Russia have grown manifold.

India Wants to Take Advantage of Alternative Route

In this context, India is conscious of this alternative route.
"India has proactively engaged with Russia in opening the Chennai-Vladivostok Maritime Corridor and the South Asian country wants to develop the port of Chennai located on the Eastern side of India, connecting it to the Eurasian sovereign state's far east port of Vladivostok, and thereafter through this Northern Sea Route, it wants its goods and items to move towards Europe via the Arctic in collaboration with the Russians," Asthana suggested.
The NSR is being billed as a game-changer for India as it would reduce the time taken to transport goods from Russia's St. Petersburg to Mumbai to 12 days.
At present, it takes a minimum of 25 days to move cargo from Mumbai to Russia's erstwhile capital. This would in effect reduce the cost of transportation considerably.
Sovcomflot LNG ship Christophe de Margerie and Russian icebreaker 50 Let Pobedy traverse the Northern Sea Route in February 2021, the first commercial cargo vessel to do so - Sputnik India, 1920, 03.10.2023
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