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Insights into Editorial: Three is company: On Australia-U.S.-U.K. security partnership

 

 

Context:

The U.S. has joined with the U.K. and Australia to announce a new trilateral security partnership, the AUKUS, that aims to ensure that there will be enduring freedom and openness in the Indo-Pacific region, particularly to “address both the current strategic environment in the region and how it may evolve”.

While China has criticised these groupings, Indian officials point out China itself is part of a number of similar groupings with select countries, including on the Afghanistan issue, on cooperating in South Asia with countries there except India, Bhutan and the Maldives, as well as through the BRICS and SCO multilateral groupings that both India and China are a part of.

 

What will AUKUS Alliance will do?

Under the ‘AUKUS’ alliance, three countries will enhance the development of joint capabilities and technology sharing, ensuring our people are kept safe from harm and reinforcing our shared goals.

AUKUS will foster deeper integration of security and defence-related science, technology, industrial bases and supply chains.

A landmark defence and security partnership has been agreed by the leaders of the UK, the United States and Australia today which will protect and defend our shared interests in the Indo-Pacific.

AUKUS is a concrete articulation of the UK’s ambition, made in the Integrated Review, to deepen defence, security and foreign policy ties with like-minded allies across the globe.

The agreement reflects the unique level of trust and cooperation between three countries, who already share extensive intelligence through the Five Eyes alliance.

 

Initiatives under AUKUS:

  1. The first initiative under AUKUS will be a collaboration on future nuclear-powered submarines for the Royal Australian Navy.
  2. This capability will promote stability in the Indo-Pacific and will be deployed in support of shared values and interests.
  3. The UK has built and operated world-class nuclear-powered submarines for over 60 years. They will be therefore bring deep expertise and experience to the project.
  4. The design and build process will create hundreds of highly skilled scientific and engineering roles across the UK, and drive investment in some of our most high-tech sectors.
  5. The UK, Australia and US are natural allies – while we may be separated geographically, their interests and values are shared.
  6. The AUKUS alliance will bring closer than ever, creating a new defence partnership and driving jobs and prosperity.

 

Two dimensions are significant:

  1. First, that it complements several pre-existing similar arrangements for the region, including the Five Eyes intelligence cooperation initiative, ASEAN and the Quad, the last including India; and
  2. Second, that it proposes to transfer technology to build a fleet of nuclear-powered submarines for Australia within 18 months.
  3. Australia has ratified the nuclear NPT and has vowed to abide by its tenets, notwithstanding the highly sensitive technology transfer implied in the latest proposal.
  4. Australia will become only the second nation, after the U.K., that the U.S. has ever shared its nuclear submarine technology with.
  5. The broader strategic question that the creation of AUKUS begs relates to the unstated challenge that the group poses to the regional hegemonic ambitions of China, particularly regarding how far the U.S., the U.K. and Australia, along with other regional powers, will go, to preserve a free and open Indo-Pacific, including the South China Sea.
  6. Countering Chinese Aggression: The AUKUS grouping will complement the existing QUAD grouping in countering the increasing influence and aggression of China in the Indo-Pacific region. Quad is a grouping of India, the USA, Australia, and Japan.

 

Technology sharing to Australia: Significance to India:

  1. In 2020, India and Australia had signed a defence pact — the Mutual Logistics Support Agreement.
  2. Besides, India is going to participate in Australia’s biggest wargame, Talisman Sabre, in 2023. The US is already part of it.
  3. It will augment the capacity of the Quad of which both the US and Australia are members.
  4. It also aims at improving defence capabilities of Australia which is a strategic partner of India.
  5. India and Australia recently held their first round of 2+2 dialogue in an effort to deepen their defence and strategic ties.
  6. This is a first of its kind defence initiative of the US in the Indo – Pacific, since Quad has not clearly outlined its defence motives clearly. Presently the Quad and AUKUS are likely to move parallelly with possibility of future merger.

 

China Argues: Australia, U.K., U.S. pact will ‘undermine’ regional peace:

  1. China hit out at the new partnership announced by Australia, the U.K. and the U.S., saying it would “undermine” regional peace and “intensify” an arms race.
  2. China particularly slammed the announcement of provision of nuclear-powered submarines to Australia under the military pact, which has been seen by many observers as being aimed, at least in part, to respond to China’s growing military footprint in the region.
  3. The nuclear submarine cooperation between the U.S., the U.K. and Australia has seriously undermined regional peace and stability, intensified the arms race and undermined international non-proliferation efforts.
  4. The export of highly sensitive nuclear submarine technology to Australia by the U.S. and the U.K. proves once again that they are using nuclear exports as a tool for geopolitical game and adopting double standards.
  5. This is extremely irresponsible and the international community, including Australia’s neighbouring countries, has full reason to question whether Australia is serious about fulfilling its nuclear non-proliferation commitments.

 

Conclusion:

This partnership will become increasingly vital for defending their interests in the Indo-Pacific region and, by extension, protecting people back at home.

The UK and US are already leading members of NATO – the world’s most important defence alliance.

The work done by AUKUS will support shared goals in new regions, promoting stability and protecting people against new and emerging threats.

Whether or not the purpose of AUKUS is to contain China’s aggressive territorial ambitions, the imperatives of the Indo-Pacific would be better served by broadening strategic cooperation initiatives of this sort to include other powers that are deeply invested in the region, including India, Japan, and South Korea.