On September 15, a week before a meeting of Quad leaders in Washington, DC, the Biden administration announced a new Indo-Pacific trilateral security cooperation involving Australia, the United Kingdom, and the United States (AUKUS). With the assistance of the United Kingdom and the United States, Australia will obtain nuclear-powered submarines.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, who joined US President Joe Biden at the White House via video connection, officially launched the trilateral alliance. Boris Johnson, the British Prime Minister, joined the event via video connection.
“The Indo-future Pacific’s will affect all of our futures,” Mr. Morrison said, adding that AUKUS would strengthen Australia’s existing relationships, including the Quad.
Mr. Biden said, “We need to be prepared to address both the present strategic situation in the area and how it may develop, since the future of each of our countries — and indeed the globe — relies on a free and open Indo-Pacific that endures and thrives in the decades ahead.”
He said that there was no distinction between the interests of America’s Atlantic and Pacific allies and that the US will collaborate with other regional partners such as the Quad and ASEAN. Mr. Biden also singled out France for its increasing presence and role in bolstering regional security.
A senior administration official described a security-focused trilateral organisation to reporters ahead of the announcement, implying that it was distinct from – but complementary to – arrangements like the Quad.
Mr. Morrison said that the nuclear-powered submarines would be constructed in Adelaide in close collaboration with the United Kingdom and the United States. Officials claimed the 18-month effort to produce the first fleet will assist Australia in acquiring submarines that are quieter than traditional submarines, as well as more capable of being deployed for longer periods of time and requiring fewer frequent surface visits.
Mr. Morrison said, “But let me be clear: Australia is not trying to acquire nuclear weapons or develop a civil nuclear capability.” The submarines, according to Mr. Biden, would be conventionally armed.
“Only a few nations have nuclear-powered submarines, and acquiring this powerful capacity is a significant choice for any nation,” Mr. Johnson said, emphasising the job possibilities that the alliance would provide for Britons.
According to Arzan Tarapore, a South Asia security specialist and Stanford University researcher, if the new alliance lives up to its promises, it may be a “game changer” for the area.
Mr. Tarapore told The Hindu, “It will amount to a step-change boost in the Quad’s underwater and anti-submarine warfare capabilities, together with India’s declared desire to purchase additional nuclear-powered submarines.”
AUKUS will also include a new architecture of meetings and interactions between the three nations, as well as cross-technology collaboration (applied AI, quantum technologies and undersea capabilities).
Tensions have been high between Australia and its biggest trading partner, China, which has been more aggressive. Mr. Morrison asked for an inquiry into the origins of COVID-19 last year after Australia blacklisted Chinese telecom giant Huawei in 2018. China responded by putting duties on Australian exports or limiting them. However, as with the Quad, US officials denied that the alliance was retaliation against China.
“I just want to emphasise that this cooperation is not targeted [at] or about any one country; it is about advancing our strategic objectives, maintaining the international rules-based system, and supporting peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific,” a senior official said on Wednesday.
Officials claimed the effort is in response to Australia’s desire to improve its marine security in the Indo-Pacific area. According to one official, the alliance was a “down-payment” on the United Kingdom’s determination to participate more fully in the Indo-Pacific, and it was a “fundamental choice…that ties, definitively, Australia to the United States and Great Britain for decades.”
When asked whether the trilateral framework might be extended in the future, an administration official claimed AUKUS was “extremely uncommon” and “one-of-a-kind,” and that the US had only shared nuclear submarine technology with the UK once before, nearly 70 years ago. “I do not foresee this being done in other situations in the future,” the official said.
Source: The Hindu