Context of AUKUS and its implications – UPSC GS2

  • Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States (AUKUS) security agreement is not a new development. Its root lies in the historical background of these countries.
  • China can exploit divided ASEAN countries against AUKUS.
What makes AUKUS alliance a traditional and natural alliance?
  • The U.S. and the U.K. are in a special defence partnership for decades. The U.S. shared nuclear weapons technology with the U.K. after the American Manhattan Project 1940s and U.K. conducted its 1st nuclear weapon test in 1952 in the Montebello Islands in Australia.
  • Australia still regards the British monarch as the head of state. The governor-General of Australia exercises her powers (British Monarch) as per the constitution.
  • Also, U.S. and the U.K. fought the 2nd world war as allies, together with Australia. During the Second World War, three Japanese midget submarines launched an attack on the Sydney Harbour. Which established that Australia’s distant geographical location could not guarantee its security against a direct maritime threat. Now, China’s increasing naval capabilities are a threat of the same level for Australia.
  • The AUKUS joint statement clearly acknowledges that trilateral defence ties are decades old. The word further in the aim (to further joint capabilities and interoperability) of AUKUS also signifies that it aims to include other areas of existing defence cooperation i.e. cyber capabilities, artificial intelligence, and quantum technologies, apart from undersea capabilities.
  • This expansion of areas also provides an opportunity for AUKUS countries to engage the regional countries like New Zealand.
What are the other reasons behind the formation of AUKUS alliance?
  • China’s policy of deliberately targeting Australian exports backfired and resulted in Australia Joining the alliance.
  • China’s naval power is challenging the U.S. dominance in the Pacific. The U.S. has been looking for effective means to militarily counter China.
What are the challenges to AUKUS alliance?
  • Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) countries are disunited over the emergence of AUKUS. A sudden increase in Australia’s naval capabilities may cause unease in the region.
  • Although Australia has assured ASEAN countries of its support for the South Pacific Nuclear-Free Zone Treaty as well as the Treaty of Southeast Asia Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone, China can exploit the concerns of ASEAN countries.
  • China has criticised AUKUS as an “exclusive bloc” and “clique” that gravely undermines regional peace and security and reflects a Cold War mentality.
Will AUKUS reduce the significance of QUAD grouping?
The Quad and AUKUS are distinct, yet complementary. While Quad initiatives cover the Indian and the Pacific Oceans, AUKUS has a Pacific-centric orientation. AUKUS will strengthen the security of countries like Japan and Taiwan. Also, QUAD’s structure and mandate are not aligned to challenge the Chinese naval power.

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