What is AUKUS ?
It stands for Australia, UK and US and aims to help modernise the primary beneficiary – Australia – over the coming decades to take up security challenges in the Indo-Pacific. The plan is to give access to cutting edge military technology to Australia by its two partners, including futuristic capabilities like artificial intelligence and quantum technologies.
Who is it aimed at ?
Though not spelt out explicitly, the partnership seeks to check on a growing China that has been asserting its military muscle in recent years – from the south China sea to the border with India in Ladakh. The rapidly expanding Chinese Navy – described by US officials as the fastest military build-up since World War II – is backed by Beijing’s strong economy.
What is the first big step ?
The US and the UK will share technology to construct nuclear powered submarines with Australia. At lest eight nuclear powered but conventionally armed submarines will be operated by the Royal Australian Navy. This could make Australia the first nation that does not have a nuclear weapons program but will operate nuclear powered boats. Canberra has emphasised that it does not plan to have nuclear weapons but the submarines are essential as they have characteristic of stealth, speed and unlimited endurance that is essential to protest maritime interests.
Australia will enter a select club of nations with such submarines. The others include India, Russia, France and China, besides the UK and the US.
What is the future of AUKUS?
Australia will acquire long range strike capabilities for its armed forces. In the next decade it will acquire Tomahawk cruise missiles, Joint Air to Surface Standoff Missiles with a range of 900 km, Long Range Anti Ship missiles and precision strike guided missiles for its land forces.
Where does India stand ?
Besides having a nuclear arms arsenal, India has an indigenous nuclear powered submarine project, with two boats already functional. Besides, it has a long term arrangement with Russia for leasing of nuclear powered submarine as well.
India would however welcome the strengthening of its quad partner Australia, that has a large maritime responsibility and is a key ally when it comes to sharing of information and intelligence on the movement of Chinese forces in the region.