The new tripartite security partnership comprising Australia, the United Kingdom and the U.S. also known as AUKUS is the latest anti-China military bloc. This pact has sent across a series of shocks in global politics as besides other aspects it proposes the sale of nuclear-powered submarines (SSNs) to Australia, the first instance where SSNs are being given to a non-nuclear-weapon state (NNWS).
This pact also covers artificial intelligence and other cutting-edge technologies. It is being termed as the biggest defense partnership in decades being shared with Australia. AUKUS could open up doors for other nuclear weapons states (NWS) to extend similar offers. France reacted most strongly because it was robbed of AUD $90 billion submarines’ contract it had concluded with Australia. Although AUKUS’ has wide-ranging global ramifications, its repercussions for South Asia are even more alarming.
Read more: AUKUS: Are we entering a new cold war era?
It is beyond any doubt that AUKUS has been formalized to counter China’s peaceful rise; before AUKUS, the U.S. had also created another security alliance, Quadrilateral Security Alliance or QUAD. Consisting of U.S., India, Japan and Australia, QUAD is intended to underpin a future Asia-Pacific order. Interestingly, QUAD involves India taking on a much greater regional role along with Western allies in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR) and more specifically the Asia-Pacific. Under the ambit of QUAD, the deepening US-India ties are intended to exert dominance over the IOR that will inevitably challenge Pakistan’s maritime security. While QUAD may serve U.S. interests against China, it certainly serves Indian interests against Pakistan.
What role does QUAD play into all this?
By using and misusing QUAD, India has not only been receiving military and defense related assistance from global powers, but it also managed to malign Pakistan’s global image. India even established a network of fake media outlets and NGOs to defame and malign Pakistan in QUAD countries. India continues to politicize and engineer important platforms such as Financial Action Task Force (FATF) to blacklist Pakistan. India has been spreading false propaganda and narratives against China and Pakistan. It has been projecting China-Pakistan’s economic cooperation as a direct threat to the West. India has also been trying to win over U.S. and Western sympathies by projecting itself under attack from two fronts, i.e., Pakistan and China.
India has portrayed Pakistan- China partnership as a threat to regional peace and stability; platforms such as AUKUS and QUAD will be viewing South Asia through Indian lens. This will add up to the trust deficit between Pakistan and U.S., besides, UK, Japan, and Australia. Viewing Pakistan through an Indian lens has largely contributed to lack of progress in bilateral relations between U.S. and Pakistan. QUAD and AUKUS will most likely be misguided by the BJP’s negative propaganda against Pakistan. U.S.’ blind faith in India to counter China will also have a corresponding negative impact on its relations with Pakistan that has strong relations with China and eventually has led U.S. to wrong conclusions over South Asian strategic stability.
India has been left out of the AUKUS agreement, showing an element of hidden mistrust of U.S. towards India and rightly so, because of Indian reluctance to confront China. For instance, Sino-Indian bilateral trade is ever higher today. Despite this, AUKUS has significant implications for South Asia’s conventional balance of power, vis-à-vis India and Pakistan. There is already news in the air that India may be getting nuclear-powered submarines (SSNs) from France. So, AUKUS has set up a bad precedent and Pakistan will have to look for options to restore strategic balance. Indian decision-makers are already hinting since quite a long that they may renounce no-first-use (NFU) policy. While keeping the U.S. decision to sell SSNs to an NNWS – Australia in view, India may pace up its already growing nuclear submarine program with increased leverage from France and even United States.
India is already exhibiting its aggressive intentions by consecutive testing of ballistic missiles, latest being the Pralay ballistic missile test with a range of 500 km (also suspected to have the capability to carry a nuclear warhead). Indian fastest-growing nuclear weapons program with frequent instances of Uranium smuggling pose major threat not only in South Asia but worldwide. India has a history of being careless with nuclear weapons. Nuclear smuggling and uranium theft perpetrated by the government in Jharkhand, Tamil Nadu, and Nagpur can readily intensify black market smuggling and further sale of nuclear material to terrorists. The world community needs to be very concerned about this.
India has begun hegemonic maritime brinkmanship. Pakistan’s threat matrix is being exacerbated by rapid Indian indigenous military modernization and access to naval technologies. With rapidly changing threat dynamics and maritime security upgrades, Pakistan’s decision-makers will need to act in order to deter Indian nuclear weapons launch capabilities in the Indian Ocean region.