–On September 15 2021, the heads of the government of Australia, the UK and the US announced the formation of a trilateral security pact, to be known as ‘AUKUS’.
–The US and Britain would share with Australia, intelligence and advanced technologies in areas like artificial intelligence, cyber-warfare, quantum computing and nuclear submarine construction.
–There is a difference between nuclear-powered submarines and nuclear-armed submarines. The US will be sharing the technology of nuclear-powered submarines, and not nuclear weapon-carrying or armed submarines, since Australia is a signatory of the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). But Australian Defence Force will acquire long-range strike capabilities in the form of ballistic missiles from the US through the next decade.
–The US used to share such technology with only the UK.
ALREADY EXISTING ALLIANCES:
–The US and the UK are NATO allies.
–Australia, New Zealand and the US are linked by the ANZUS pact.
–All 3 are members of the ‘Five Eyes’ intelligence alliance (others are Canada and New Zealand).
–This is the first post-Brexit alliance made by the UK.
–QUAD already exists between the US, India, Australia and Japan. QUAD deals with non-military determinants of global security such as supply chain diversification, climate change, vaccines and technology among others.
–AUKUS, a new trilateral security agreement, asserts the traditional Anglo-Saxon alliance that has fought several wars on the same side for over a hundred years.
–France has felt let down by Australia as Australia’s $65 billion worth deal with France signed in 2016 for conventional diesel-electric submarines, which will now face a hazy future, was important for the French economy and its own interests in the Indo-Pacific.
–But, the nuclear-powered submarines are stealthier, have a longer range, endurance and can operate for longer periods under water, which Australia is looking for, in order to play a role in the backwaters of the Indo-Pacific.
–Beijing’s apprehensions arise from the suspicion that these kinds of alliances are a containment strategy of the US.
–NATO has also taken a stronger line on China.
–Australia is in a trade war with China.
–The US decision to transfer nuclear capability to Australia is not just expanding nuclear cooperation for strategic objectives, it is also a message to China that Washington could one day do the same for other countries in the region.
–Undersea capabilities including the ability to patrol may be vital to deter Chinese military coercion in the region.
–It reassures other countries in Asia such as India, Japan and South Korea.
WAY AHEAD FOR INDIA:
–India can use this as an opportunity to be more assertive in its bilateral ties with the US for the transfer of technology – the ‘know how’ and the ‘know why’ – of the stealth fighters, jet engines, advanced radars, nuclear propulsion of submarines, nuclear attack submarines and aircraft carriers.
–India has been a supportive friend of Australia, the US, the UK, Japan and also France. We have our own nuclear submarine programme in place, but wider multilateral partnerships will provide a boost to our indigenous programmes.
–AUKUS buys India more time to beef up the country’s own naval capabilities.
–AUKUS complements QUAD, as well as free and open Indo-Pacific, including the Malacca Strait and the South China Sea.
–It will complement our ‘Malabar’ naval exercises.
–At the same time, India has to balance even the ASEAN nations like Indonesia and Malaysia which highly lean on China.
–India should seek opportunities wherever there is convergence of interests. India’s interests lie in deeper strategic cooperation with the US, France, Europe – including its smaller nations from the Baltics to the Balkans, QUAD and the Anglosphere.