AUKUS Will Make Indo-Pacific Fiercely Contested, Sinologist Says
10:41 GMT 17.09.2021 (Updated: 11:16 GMT 21.09.2021)
US President Joe Biden has announced a new alliance with the UK and Australia named AUKUS to meet growing challenges in the Indo-Pacific. The pact stipulates a deal under which Australia will be provided with nuclear-powered submarines.
The first major initiative under AUKUS is Australia's acquisition of at least eight nuclear-powered submarines. China's state-media Global Times wrote that it will stir up a great power competition, and more regions will be involved in the rising tensions.
French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian lashed out at the US and Australia and termed the announcement as "really a stab in the back
". France has expressed fury as Australia scrapped a $90 billion submarine deal with a French firm in favour of nuclear-powered subs from the US.
India is a common partner in different alliances, the Quad, Australia-India-France, all constituted in the last few years, with a perceived common agenda of countering China's rise in the region. Sputnik spoke with Professor Bali R. Deepak, an Indian sinologist and professor at the Centre of Chinese & Southeast Asian Studies at Jawahar Lal Nehru University, Delhi over the formation of the new alliance in the Indo-Pacific region and its possible impact on India's relations with other countries.
Sputnik: AUKUS is the first security arrangement in the Indo-Pacific. How will this change geopolitics in the region?
Bali R Deepak:
The defence and technology sharing agreement between Australia, the UK, and the US (AUKUS) demonstrates the fact that the Indo-Pacific strategy is increasingly gaining traction
. This is also an indication that Europe is gradually becoming serious about the strategy, the aim of which is to contain an assertive China.
There was no doubt that Obama's "pivot to Asia" had a similar aim, however, since the US had been embroiled in conflicts ranging from the Middle East to Afghanistan-Pakistan, it had no leeway to act against China's rise. Now, since the US has freed itself from these wars, and moreover, since the Biden administration has reassured its allies of strategic cooperation, the strategic environment in the region in terms of security alliances, economic and technological cooperation, shifting the global supply chains will witness a huge churning.
Essentially, we will witness a fiercely contested region between the emerging and the established hegemons supported by their European and Indo-Pacific alliance partners.
Sputnik: How will this impact the Quad as it seems India is pursuing this group as more non-military in nature?
Bali R Deepak:
This will not have an impact on the Quad,
for Quad is another alliance of like-minded countries in the Indo-Pacific and an important component of the Indo-Pacific strategy. It is true that to start with India wished to keep the Quad as a loose grouping devoid of any security alliance, or one that is not aimed at a third country. However, given India's asymmetries with China and China's assertiveness along the border, it appears that India is gradually giving up on its earlier thinking.
Sputnik: Could this arrangement have any impact on India's relationship with France?
Bali R Deepak: I don't think India's participation in the Quad or any other mechanism in the Indo-Pacific will impinge on its ties with France. Rather, France and other EU nations like Germany have also made their intentions clear as far as their engagement in the Indo-Pacific is concerned.
The US commitment to supply Australia with a fleet of nuclear-powered submarines, has irked France because its own submarine deal with Australia is likely to be jeopardised.
It nonetheless, doesn't impinge on any other country of the Quad. Instead it has been seen as a security stabiliser, and since the US has moved away from its traditional thinking on sharing technology, the same may be shared with other allies including India to meet the Chinese challenge. France may be forced to do the same and be included in the alliance in the future.
Sputnik: Will China make any readjustment in its policy after this move by the US, Britain, and Australia?
Bali R Deepak:
China of course would like to break free from the containment. However, at the moment, it doesn't have many choices besides creating hype and being more belligerent, especially in the Taiwan Strait.
China did attempt to create a wedge between the US and its European allies, but AUKUS reaffirms the US commitment to its allies.
Secondly, China will continue to pursue its Belt and Road initiative among developing countries and at least secure their neutrality in the conflict and build military and non-military assets in these countries as has been the case. The Afghanistan-Pakistan region and China's involvement there will be interesting to watch, whether it will be successful in integrating the region with the Middle East and Central Asian republics will be keenly observed.
"Russia's role and its overtures to China will be crucial for China's engagement in the region too. China too would like to see Russia firmly on its side, but will Russia play by the Chinese rules in its backyard? With India, China may disengage from one or more friction points in the face of new developments in the region, however, the damage to relations has already been done".
China's engagement with the Taliban* and its axis with Pakistan will continue to create anxieties and more trust deficits in New Delhi.
*The Taliban is a terrorist group banned in Russia and many other countries.