Message for India? AUKUS Announcement Sparks Debate About Relevance of Quad, Reliability of US


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Concerns are being expressed in India and elsewhere that the newly announced AUKUS alliance overlaps the security role of the Quad and thus relegates the four-nation grouping to the backburner. The Quad, comprised of Australia, India, Japan, and the US, will hold its first-ever, in-person leaders’ summit at the White House on 24 September.

The newly announced “trilateral security partnership (AUKUS)” between Australia, the US, and the United Kingdom has triggered a debate in India about its exact role in Washington’s Indo-Pacific strategy, with analysts pointing out that New Delhi’s “reluctance” to become involved in a security grouping is prompting the US to look for options elsewhere.

“India has repeatedly stated that it doesn’t view the Quad as a security grouping. It has also shown its reluctance to get militarily involved on the side of the US in case there is any conflict in the Taiwan Strait or the South China Sea for that matter. So, the US is looking for more willing partners elsewhere”, Seshadri Vasan, a retired Indian Navy officer and the director of the think tank Chennai Centre for China Studies (C3S) told Sputnik.

He reckons that the UK intends to be more “relevant” in the Indo-Pacific and on the global stage after its exit from the European Union (EU), describing it as a possible reason the North Atlantic power pledging to join forces with other English-speaking countries.

“There couldn’t have been a better opportunity for the UK”, states the Indian think tank director.

Britain's Royal Navy warship HMS Westminster sits docked in Gibraltar, Monday, Aug. 19, 2013 - Sputnik International, 1920, 24.11.2020

‘A Very British Tilt’: How UK May Influence US-China Strategic Competition in Indo-Pacific Region

Speaking about the criticism that the Biden administration has put the Quad on the backburner and sidelined India by excluding it from the AUKUS alliance, Vasan points out that Washington’s primary objective in the region is to check the rise of China.

“This new alliance serves their national interest”, he says. Vasan also points out that Australia’s decision to scrap its $90 billion nuclear submarine contract with France’s Naval Group and instead opting to manufacture them under AUKUS was a win for the “military-industrial” complex in the US.

“Like the US, even India should now be more focused on what best serves its interests”, remarks the Indian Navy veteran.

A media statement from the Australian government said the three nations would “intensely examine” the underpinnings of nuclear submarine technology over the next 18 months. “Australia will establish a Nuclear-Powered Submarine Taskforce in the Department of Defence to lead this work”, said the official statement.

Several observers have raised concerns on social media that the new initiative “contradicts” Washington’s original objective in its Indo-Pacific strategy, namely to get New Delhi more involved in the regional security architecture.America’s Indo-Pacific strategy, published by the former Trump administration in January of last year said that a “strong India” would act as a “counter-balance” to China and called upon New Delhi to take a “leading role” in the region.

Vasan, however, argues that the Quad will continue to remain relevant, as the new trilateral alliance is purely “defence-oriented”.

A monitor displaying a virtual meeting with U.S. President Joe Biden (top L), Australia's Prime Minister Scott Morrison (bottom L), Japan's Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga (top R) and India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi is seen during the virtual Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (Quad) meeting, at Suga's official residence in Tokyo on March 12, 2021. - Sputnik International, 1920, 14.09.2021

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Indian Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar last week rejected China’s categorisation of the Quad as an “Asian NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organisation)”, while addressing journalists in New Delhi after the first-ever 2+2 Dialogue between India and Australia.

“I think the term, like NATO, is very much a Cold War term, looking back I think Quad looks in the future. It reflects globalisation. It reflects the compulsions of countries to work together. And if you look at the kind of issues Quad is focused on today, vaccines, supply chains, education, connectivity, you know, I can’t see any relationship between such issues and NATO or any other kind of organisations like that”, stated Jaishankar.

India Has Its Own Set of Competing Groups, Says Ex-Envoy

Former Indian diplomat and strategic affairs analyst Anil Trigunayat says the AUKUS announcement signifies that the Biden administration is trying to “create a reliable, alternative mechanism in the Indo-Pacific region”.

“As for India and the upcoming Quad Summit, I don’t think New Delhi needs to feel threatened or disenchanted as all the constituents (of the Quad) have always been at pains not to call the four-nation grouping a security outfit— whatever it may be implicitly or by implications”, the ex-envoy told Sputnik.

Trigunayat further recalls that India is part of several multilateral groupings where the other members “don’t look at Quad” kindly.

“Besides India, believing in multi-alignment policies, also has its set of competing outfits like BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa) and the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO), where China and Russia are the bigger players and don’t look at the Quad kindly”.

“We are living in the age of bilateral, trilateral, and plurilateral arrangements and I don’t see any conflict or let up in India’s other trilaterals or multilaterals”, states the former Indian ambassador.

The virtual summit, featuring US President Joe Biden, UK PM Boris Johnson, and Australia’s Scott Morrison, unveiled the new Indo-Pacific security alliance ahead of the 21st meeting of the China-backed SCO Council of Heads of State in Dushanbe on 17 September.

France Says ‘Stab in the Back’, India Refuses to React

France has demanded an explanation from both the US and Australia over the scrapping of the nuclear submarine contract, with Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian describing the decision as a “stab in the back”.

Scorpene-class diesel submarine. File photo - Sputnik International, 1920, 16.09.2021

France May Demand Compensation From Australia for Submarine Deal Breach, Defence Minister Says

The Indian Foreign Ministry, meanwhile, has refused to comment on the development. However, Indian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Arindam Bagchi pointed out at a weekly media briefing on Thursday that PM Scott Morrison as well as Australian Defence Minister Peter Dutton did speak to their Indian counterparts Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Defence Minister Rajnath Singh on the eve of the announcement.





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