NEW DELHI: India has reserved its response to the announcement of the new Australia-UK-US (AUKUS) trilateral security partnership, but New Delhi may have reason to be optimistic over the latest development in global security.
The security trilateral will be a huge message to China. Most important, it will add to the global efforts to balance China in this region. It will augment the defence capabilities of Australia, which has graduated to become one of India’s closer strategic partners in the Indo-Pacific. Second, the new trilateral is likely to augment capabilities of the Quad, of which both the US and Australia are members. AUKUS will see Australia accessing nuclear submarines for the first time, amping up the defence quotient in the Indo-Pacific.
The Quad is not a security grouping, so this brings a security adjunct to the Quad which is the diplomatic outreach to the Indo-Pacific by four democracies. For the present, the Quad and AUKUS will move on parallel tracks, with the possibility that in future, the two could merge.
Australian PM, Scott Morrison tweeted, “Today, Australia begins an enhanced trilateral security partnership with the UK and the US to enable deeper cooperation on security and defence capabilities. This is an historic opportunity for our countries to strengthen our nations’ security in uncertain times.”
Ashley Tellis, senior fellow at Carnegie, told TOI, “The AUKUS agreement is meant to build Australian capabilities to contribute to the military balancing of China. Nuclear submarines are our ace in the hole — they target China’s biggest vulnerabilities. So it’s a great investment.”
The wrinkle in this stems from the bad blood generated between Australia and France, two of India’s big partners in the Indo-Pacific. France had signed a $40 billion deal to supply submarines to Australia in 2016. Now Australia has scrapped the deal, going with the UK and the US to build nuclear submarines. France is sore with both the US and Australia. This might impact the India-Australia-France trilateral for the time being, although the reasons for that trilateral remain as strong as ever.