AUKUS could rock China’s boat in the Indo-Pacific

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : RIMPAC

Mains level : Paper 2- AUKUS

Context

The trilateral security agreement between Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States (AUKUS) continues to be in the news.

Implications for ASEAN

  • There is also the matter of Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) disunity over the emergence of AUKUS.
  •  While AUKUS is clearly an attempt by the U.S. to bolster regional security, including securing Australia’s seaborne trade, any sudden accretion in Australia’s naval capabilities is bound to cause unease in the region.
  • Even though Australia has denied that AUKUS is a defence alliance, this hardly prevents China from exploiting ASEAN’s concerns at having to face a Hobson’s choice amidst worsening U.S.-China regional rivalry.
  •  AUKUS is based on a shared commitment of its three members to deepening diplomatic, security and defence cooperation in the Indo-Pacific to meet the challenges of the 21st century.
  • Even though this has not been stated explicitly, the rise of China, particularly its rapid militarisation and aggressive behaviour, is undoubtedly the trigger.

Relations of AUKUS members with China

  • The AUKUS joint statement clearly acknowledges that trilateral defence ties are decades old, and that AUKUS aims to further joint capabilities and interoperability.
  • For three nations, their relations with China have recently been marked by contretemps.
  • Australia, especially, had for years subordinated its strategic assessment of China to transactional commercial interests.
  • Much to China’s chagrin, its policy of deliberately targeting Australian exports has not yielded the desired results.
  • Instead of kow-towing, the plucky Australian character has led Canberra to favour a fundamental overhaul of its China policy.
  • The transfer of sensitive submarine technology by the U.S. to the U.K. is a sui generis arrangement based on their long-standing Mutual Defence Agreement of 1958.
  • Elements in the broader agenda provide opportunities to the U.S., the U.K. and Australia to engage the regional countries.

AUKUS engagement with regional countries

  • All three nations will also play a major role in U.S.-led programmes such as Build Back Better World, Blue Dot Network and Clean Network, to meet the challenge of China’s Belt and Road Initiative.
  • The Quad and AUKUS are distinct, yet complementary. Neither diminishes the other.
  • Whereas the Quad initiatives straddle the Indian and the Pacific Oceans, a Pacific-centric orientation for AUKUS has advantages.
  • Such a strategy could potentially strengthen Japan’s security as well as that of Taiwan in the face of China’s mounting bellicosity.
  • Shifting AUKUS’s fulcrum to the Pacific Ocean could reassure ASEAN nations.
  • It could also inure AUKUS to any insidious insinuation that accretion in the number of nuclear submarines plying the Indo-Pacific might upset the balance of power in the Indian Ocean.

Conclusion

There are limited options in the economic arena with China already having emerged as a global economic powerhouse. AUKUS, though, provides an opportunity to the U.S. to place proxy submarine forces to limit China’s forays, especially in the Pacific Ocean.

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