THE CONTEXT: In September 2021, a new security group namely AUKUS, has been formed in Indo-Pacific between three NATO members viz. Australia, the United Kingdom, and the United States. After the formation of this group, it is said that it can impact the efficiency and effectiveness of QUAD (a dialogue between India, Japan, Australia, and the United States for free and open Indo-Pacific). It is also a concern that the group is presenting a dilemma against India about its presence in the indo-pacific area. This article analyses the issue in detail.
WHAT IS AUKUS?
It stands for Australia, the UK, and the US and aims to help modernize the primary beneficiary Australia over the coming decades to take up security challenges in the Indo-Pacific. The plan is to give access to cutting-edge military technology to Australia by its two partners, including futuristic capabilities like artificial intelligence and quantum technologies.
What is the first big step?
- The US and the UK will share technology to construct nuclear-powered submarines with Australia. At least eight nuclear-powered but conventionally armed submarines will be operated by the Australian Navy.
- This could make Australia the first nation that does not have a nuclear weapons program but will operate nuclear-powered boats.
- After that, Australia will enter a select club of nations with such submarines. The others include India, Russia, France, and China, besides the UK and the US.
Where does India stand?
- Besides having a nuclear arms arsenal, India has an indigenous nuclear-powered submarine project, with two boats already functional. Besides, it has a long-term arrangement with Russia for leasing of the nuclear-powered submarine as well.
WHAT DOES THE QUAD DO?
Understanding the QUAD: Known as the ‘Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (QSD), the Quad is an informal strategic forum comprising four nations, namely the United States of America (USA), India, Australia, and Japan. One of the primary objectives of the Quad is to work for a free, open, prosperous, and inclusive Indo-Pacific region.
Formation of QUAD: Since its establishment in 2007, the representatives for the four-member nations have met periodically. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was the first to pitch the idea for the formation of Quad in 2007. In fact, its origins can be traced back to the evolution of Exercise Malabar and the 2004 Tsunami when India conducted relief and rescue operations for itself and neighboring countries and was later joined by the US, Japan, and Australia. Therefore, China issued formal diplomatic protests to the members of the Quad.
Principles of Quad: The motive behind the Quad is to keep the strategic sea routes in the Indo-Pacific free of any military or political influence. It is basically seen as a strategic grouping to reduce Chinese domination. The core objective of the Quad is to secure a rules-based global order, freedom of navigation and a liberal trading system. The coalition also aims to offer alternative debt financing for nations in the Indo-Pacific region. The Quad leaders exchange views on contemporary global issues such as critical and emerging technologies, connectivity and infrastructure, cyber security, maritime security, humanitarian assistance, disaster relief, climate change, pandemic and education.
WHAT HAS CHANGED AFTER THE FORMATION OF AUKUS?
After the formation of the quad, there are many questions occurred about the future of the quad, some of them are as follows:
- Are these two groups conflicting in nature?
- Why USA formed a new group despite having QUAD?
- Will it hamper the effectiveness of QUAD?
- Will it impact India’s interest in Indo-pacific?
- When a similar alliance was already in existence in the form of QUAD, what is the need for a new alliance?
- Why are India and Japan excluded from this new formation?
- Why does the UK want to return to Indo-Pacific being an Atlantic nation?
The answer to these questions will be clear in the future but these can be made some predictions in present circumstances and these are as follows:
The vision of these two alliances is very clear:
- These two alliances QUAD and AUKUS- function is clearly demarcated fields non-military and military. The QUAD is an alliance of four democratic countries that is more focused on challenging China in fields that are non-military. The recent QUAD meeting of the four heads of state reinforces this idea.
- QUAD will produce one billion vaccine doses to be distributed among Southeast Asian nations, the countries that are so far solely dependent on the Chinese vaccine. QUAD countries will strive to reduce the dependency of some countries on China in infrastructure development.
- This four-nation alliance is going to focus on supply chain and technology up-gradation to compete with China in the international market especially in the 5G networking and manufacturing sector.
- The only thing that comes closest to military cooperation among these QUAD countries is the irregularly held Malabar Naval Exercise.
- Thus QUAD, in the strict sense of the term, is far from a military alliance; it is a partnership of cooperation in various fields among countries against a common economic giant China.
- In contrast, AUKUS is purely a military alliance where three of the militarily advanced countries come together to contain and counter China in the Indo-Pacific. Thus, AUKUS would neither supersede nor undermine QUAD rather it would complement it.
As to the exclusion of India and Japan from the AUKUS one requires to examine the different contexts of these two countries.
Japan has a historical aversion to anything remotely associated with nuclear. So it is out of the question that the US would offer or Japan would accept nuclear technology.
- One should not forget that India, from the very inception of QUAD, is a reluctant member of it. India always shows that once the border dispute with China is resolved amicably through diplomatic channels there is no need for it to join any anti-China defense conglomeration. But when the push came to a shove from China after the Doklam confrontation in 2017 and the tension at the LAC in May/June 2020, India has no other alternative but to embrace the QUAD.
- However, India never called QUAD countries a defense partnership and always termed it as a partnership for common good. This reluctance of India to be part of an anti-China security alliance has not escaped America’s notice.
- The non-inclusion of India in the AUKUS makes it clear that the USA does not trust India to be of much help in the eventuality of a China-USA military confrontation over Taiwan.
- The USA now judges India from its initial reluctance to be part of any defense alliance against China.
- The USA does not consider India to stand up to China as Australia would in case of a military conflict. America is very apprehensive of India’s capability to counter China as a major military power in Asia.
- India’s dealing with Russia especially in buying military hardware from that country puts America in a dilemma before considering any offer of transfer of modern technology to India. India’s decision to buy the Russian anti-aircraft missile system S-400 Triumph has made India an unreliable US partner.
AUKUS will not negatively impact India’s interest in Indo-Pacific
The formation of the group will not negatively impact India’s interest and it will protect India’s interest:
- The pros from India’s perspective include the signal AUKUS sends about its members’ perceptions, priorities, power, and presence in the Indo-Pacific. India has deep concerns about Chinese actions and intentions in the region.
- The ongoing border crisis and fatal military clash in 2020 brought Sino-Indian relations to their worst point in decades. Given these circumstances, India watches the U.S. and other countries’ stance on China very closely.
WHAT ARE THE PROS AND COMPLICATIONS OF AUKUS FOR INDIA?
- POSITIVES: It reflects continued and intensifying U.S. and Australian concerns about China. Moreover, it is designed to increase their capabilities in the region (which will also, consequently, increase the cumulative capabilities of the Quad). And this, in turn, will bolster both the Australian and the American ability to deter China or to respond in the event of a crisis. In this way, it supplements Quad’s efforts.
- In recent years, Indian policymakers have, on balance, gone from worrying about too much U.S. presence and interest in the Indian Ocean to worrying about Washington paying too little attention to this region. AUKUS could ease this concern, as will the enhanced American rotational deployments and other activities envisaged by the recent AUSMIN (the Australia–US Ministerial Consultations) discussions. Given increased Chinese forays into the region, the Indian government will likely see this as a positive outcome that matters more than lingering concerns among some officials or analysts about an increased U.S. presence.
- AUKUS conveys the U.K.’s seriousness about its tilt to the Indo-Pacific. Moreover, this involvement will be in ways that broadly complement India’s interests and efforts. It also signals that the British view of the China challenge has evolved. Given that London has had a more accommodating view of China—as have other European partners—than India would prefer, AUKUS could also be a platform that helps socialize the U.K. even further to the acuteness of the China challenge.
- AUKUS rollout gives India in both the diplomatic and defense trade realms, particularly with France. Paris will probably double down on its efforts to secure arms deals with India—for commercial and political-economic reasons and maybe even to get one over on the U.S. This goes beyond platforms like fighter aircraft. Specifically, India has an indigenous program to develop nuclear-powered submarines and is leasing a nuclear-powered submarine from Russia
- NEGATIVES: France’s unhappiness with AUKUS has complicated the situation a bit from India’s perspective. On the one hand, India recognizes that different coalitions will form-based, in part, on different tiers of threat perceptions of China. Its own multitude of trilateral reflects this understanding. Moreover, Delhi, too, has found European partners to be less concerned about China than it would like—and that has set limits to the depth of its own cooperation with them in certain sensitive realms.
- India will be chagrined by the family feud sparked by the lack of AUKUS consultation with France, which seems only to help Beijing. Paris’s discontent feeds China’s narrative about U.S. unreliability and supports China’s efforts to drive wedges between European and Indo-Pacific partners and forestall their collaborative efforts. Delhi will be less concerned about arguments that AUKUS angst will affect Paris’ commitment to the Indo-Pacific believes this is motivated by resident power France’s own interests in the region. Indian policymakers will be more concerned about any adverse impact on U.S.-Europe cooperation on issues like technology or developing resilient supply chains.
- Delhi might be concerned about any fallout related to U.S.-French collaboration in multilateral institutions. Recently, this has often benefited Indian interests, and, at the U.N. Security Council, even directly helped India when China has backed Pakistan. Delhi wants these partners to be proactively involved in helping shape international rules, norms, and standards, as well as the leadership of these organizations—and not have them hold back or have to pull them along.
THE WAY FORWARD FOR INDIA
- Indeed, as mentioned above, AUKUS could help the Quad. It could even take some of the pressure off the grouping, by attracting Chinese ire.
- It might make the four-country grouping relatively more palatable to ASEAN in comparison. And, as another non-Quad venue for security collaboration, AUKUS could also reduce the pressure on India and Japan to undertake commitments or activities on the defense and security front that they are unable or unwilling to sign on to. This potentially increases the freedom of action or strategic autonomy of these members and other like-minded countries in the region.
- India will also be hoping that the Macron-Biden call was a sign of things to come and AUKUS hasn’t done lasting damage to collaborative efforts in the Indo-Pacific and beyond.
- In last, India wants to see its various partners and like-minded coalitions pulling in the same direction. Thus, it will do what it can to soothe ruffled feathers. Finally, Indian officials will assess what opportunities have opened up for India particularly with France, which it considers relatively more reliable as a defense trade partner, and with the U.S. and Australia, which are in better alignment regarding China.
THE CONCLUSION: Form the above analysis, it is clear that AUKUS will impact the effectiveness of QUAD but a helpful forum for this group. It is also helpful for India to secure its relations in Indo-Pacific by being a partner for any security group. Now India’s official needs to play smartly to grab the opportunity provides by the newly formed group.
- How far do you agree with the view that with the help of AUKUS, India can secure its interests Indo-Pacific without being a member of any security group? Analyze your view.
- ‘AUKUS and Quad are not conflicting in nature but supporting’. Comment.
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