India on Monday formally sought permission of the Secretariat of the Antarctic Treaty (ATS) to set up a third research base in the icy continent in order to bolster its scientific research there.
Minister of Earth Sciences Kapil Sibal said India had asked permission of the treaty members in this regard and expressed the hope that it would get the green signal at the ongoing 30th Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meeting (ATCM) here. The ATCM is being held in India for the first time.
"We are very hopeful of getting the permission, and by the time the meeting is over (May 11), we would have something to cheer about," he said.
"Though I cannot give you a definite answer, India has a strong chance of getting a positive nod." Johannes Huber, executive secretary ATS, told the agency.
India has two research bases in the Antarctica - Dakshin Gangotri and Maitri. However, the first one, Dakshin Gangotri, is completely non-functional as it is buried under ice. There are around 20 scientists working in Maitri.
"The Antarctica is considered a natural reserve and heritage of mankind, untouched by human conflict and exploitation," Sibal said, adding that India's third base would devote itself to the cause of scientific research.
The ATCM meeting here is being participated by scientists and experts from governmental and non-governmental organisations from more than 45 countries.
Huber said the ATS would deliberate on India's proposal at the meeting before taking a final call. "We would assess India's proposal, its environmental proposal, the type of research work as well as its contingency plan in case of any untoward incident."
He said India's draft environmental evaluation by the National Centre for Antarctica and Ocean Research would be comprehensively assessed.