AUKUS alliance and China | By Dr Muhammad Akram Zaheer

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AUKUS alliance and China

AUKUS is a trilateral security agreement between Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States for the Indo-Pacific region.

Under the agreement, the United States and Britain will help Australia to acquire nuclear-powered submarines.

The agreement was designed to counter Chinese influence in the Indo-Pacific region. But, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson later told Parliament that the move was not intended to conflict with China.

The agreement also includes cooperation on “additional cyber capabilities, artificial intelligence, quantum technologies and underwater capabilities”.

According to the agreement, Australia will purchase modern and long-range capabilities for its air force, navy and army.

The agreement is a big opportunity for these states with like-minded alliance to promote security, prosperity and other shared interests in Indo-Pacific Region.

The agreement will help Australia to build nuclear-powered submarines that are faster and harder to detect than conventional navies.

These submarines can stay underwater for months and also can fire long-range missiles. However, Australia has declared that it has no plans to develop and to use nuclear weapons.

Australia will become a seventh country in the world that may operate nuclear-powered submarine.

With the help of this technology and nuclear-powered submarines, Australia will also be shared by cyber capability, artificial intelligence and other undersea technology.

The alliance reflects in views of several scholars and policymakers that it would have to face challenges and resistance from the regional powers and their allies of other forum.

AUKUS agreement’s intentions may be to deter the growing influence of China in Indo-Pacific region.

When the US was busy in the Middle East and Afghanistan, then China was struggling to modernize and expand its nuclear capabilities, increase its influence in the region and beyond the region as well.

China has established significant involvement in the South China Sea which is a main concern of Western powers because 1/3 maritime shipping of the world passes through it and US$3 trillion trade every year.

The strategy of AUKUS indirectly may protect the interest of America and Europe by using the shoulder of Australia.

With the submarines deal, Australia may feel secure from any aggression from the People’s Liberation Army after the deal of nuclear submarines.

The two countries with nuclear weapons may not attack on each other for the fear of mutual annihilation but the controversy would create long distance for trade and investment activities among the regional and beyond the regional powers.

However, the strategy carries many challenges in the region to the AUKUS alliance. Although the agreement is an attempt to draw a line before China’s aggressive moves in the region but separate New Zeeland and Canada from United States, United Kingdome and Australia that are members of the Alliance of Intelligence Sharing Five Eyes.

This machismo has been working during the Cold War and has proved as a successful intelligence alliance.

The AUKUS agreement will focus on military capability and intelligence sharing. The government of New Zeeland has responded that it would ban Australian submarines from its waters under the present policy of nuclear-powered submarines.

The agreement might also lead towards Cold War mentality and ideological prejudgment. Chinese state media, particularly Global Times, took more extreme position on AUKUS and wrote that Australia’s deployment of nuclear-powered submarines will “potentially make Australia a target of a nuclear strike if a nuclear war breaks out, even when Washington said it won’t arm Canberra with nuclear weapons, because it’s easy for the US to equip Australia with nuclear weapons and submarine-launched ballistic missiles when Australia has the submarines.

North Korea has said nuclear submarines-agreements may spark a regional arms race. Malaysia has also said the deal serves as a catalyst for a nuclear arms race and once arms race started, and then it will be difficult to overcome.

Although this is not the place to discuss the merits of this competitive version of the Australian National Strategy but it’s worth noting that when Australia really relies on submarines, it will only face China.

If the United States remains a major power in Asia, Australia has no need of it because the United States will be there.

If USA is not a superpower now, it will all be a part of the confrontation between Australian forces and the People’s Liberation Army.

So it makes sense to upgrade all of Australian forces and capabilities to defend Australia. This also interprets that the deterioration of the United States has started.

The AUKUS controversy illustrates that the close friends can be divided if trade concerns are at stake.

But, Britain and the United States have other ideas, as their own military-industry would be the one that would have benefit from the deal the most as France had planned.

But the most disturbing reality that emerges from this conflict is the deployment of nuclear ships in the Pacific.

Unfortunately, after false military adventures in the Persian Gulf and humiliated defeat of the world’s strongest military in Afghanistan, it gives the impression that the Western Bloc is now attempting to test the waters of East Asia and the Pacific Coast.

It might take forward Obama’s “Pivot to Asia” policy rather than to relax military muscles. According to Carl von Clausewitz famous dictum “War is nothing but the continuation of policy with other means” same is happening and I think such developments are an unending series of Tom and Jerry show.

—The writer, a PhD scholar, is associated with Islamia University Bahawalpur.