Quad, AUKUS and the Indo-Pacific
On March 28, 2022, the POTUS Joe Biden announced, “In the Indo-Pacific, America is strengthening its role and expanding its cooperation with longtime allies and partners, including new diplomatic, defence and security, critical and emerging technology and supply chain, and climate and global health initiatives, while supporting stronger ties between our European and Indo-Pacific allies.”
Biden has proposed $1.8 billion in his budget plan to support America’s Indo-Pacific Strategy along with another $400 million to China’s aggressive behaviour in the region, and to ensure a free and open, connected, secure and resilient Indo-Pacific. Both these proposals are part of a $773 billion budgetary proposal submitted to Congress for 2023. According to the White House, the US is focusing strengthening deterrence in the Indo-Pacific region, which include building the concepts, capabilities, and posture necessary to meet the challenges and working in concert with the interagency and US allies and partners to ensure American deterrence is integrated across domains, theatres, and the spectrum of conflict.
The above looks good on paper but the US would not respond to the question of what did America do all these years when China was systematically militarizing the East and South China Seas. Moreover, the Ukraine conflict proves beyond doubt that America’s interest is only to retain leadership and let others fight to further US national interests. The US wants alliances to showcase its leadership but has no concern about their national interests. Witness the high inflation in European countries which are staring at the looming recession. Unofficially, US officials admit that America is lying to the world about Russia.
The drama about UNGA dropping Russia from the UN Human Rights Council cuts little ice when the US itself had pulled out from the UNHRC not long ago with Nikki Haley resigning. When the US has little consideration for the European economy, why would it have any consideration for the Indo-Pacific allies? The “free and open Indo-Pacific” is another cliché similar to the “rule based order” which the US keeps repeating these days with respect to the Ukraine conflict, whereas every action by the US; sanctions including economic terrorism and accusations are arbitrary and illegal.
The Quad may be called an adjunct to AUKUS but it really has little military role for India, even as the US would like India to get involved in the South China Sea. But yes, it has strengthened India as the ‘pharmacy of the world’ for combating the COVID-19. The Indian vaccines have certainly proved more potent against the pandemic and its variants. Ironically, a recent internal document from the Chinese National Health Commission (NHC) showed that the (Chinese) COVID-19 vaccines had caused leukemia. As of March 3, 2022, 31 Chinese provinces and the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps reported a cumulative total of 3,147 million doses of vaccine were administered.
Sharing of emerging technologies is good but this is already happening through bilateral partnerships. Besides, any overarching security architecture with the US leading must take into account America’s unreliability and its blackmail mechanism which is becoming more apparent.
AUKUS is the trilateral security pact between Australia, the UK and the US, announced on September 15, 2021. The US-UK will help Australia acquire six nuclear-powered submarines – by 2040? The pact also includes cooperation in cyber capabilities, artificial intelligence, quantum technologies and additional undersea capabilities, focusing on military capabilities, separate from the Five Eyes intelligence sharing alliance that also includes Canada and New Zealand.
In a recent joint statement, AUKUS leaders have said they are committed to development of hypersonic and counter-hypersonic technologies, electronic warfare, expanding information sharing and cooperation in defence innovation. An interesting comment on social media reads: “So far, there are few details of what will be included in the AUKUS ‘hypersonic plan’, but such statements are direct confirmation that the Anglo-Saxons do not care about agreements on the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons.” This, however, is no surprise since what the US calls “Rule Based Order”, is without any rules whatsoever.
China’s foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian, denounced the AUKUS decision, saying, “This not only increases the risk of nuclear proliferation … but also exacerbates the arms race in the Asia-Pacific region.” Japan has welcomed the move with Hirokazu Matsuno, Secretary General of the Cabinet of Ministers of Japan, stating that the Japanese government “welcomes the decision of the AUKUS members to start cooperation in the development of hypersonic weapons and means of defense against them.”
Notably, China and Russia are considered more advanced in hypersonic missile technology. China tested a nuclear-capable hypersonic missile in August 2021 that circled the globe before speeding towards its target, demonstrating an advanced space capability that caught US intelligence by surprise. The test raised new questions why the US often underestimates China’s military modernization. Taylor Fravel, an expert on Chinese nuclear weapons policy said a hypersonic glide vehicle armed with a nuclear warhead could help China “negate” US missile defence systems which are designed to destroy incoming ballistic missiles.
The timeframe for Australia acquiring hypersonic missiles is not known but it should be more worried about the Chinese base in the Solomon Islands in the near future replete with nuclear submarines and hypersonic nuclear missiles. The US can do nothing about it other than singing the chorus of ‘free and open Indo-Pacific – similar to China’s militarization of Western Pacific. Japan, having sanctioned Russia on America’s behest, has not only lost out on the Russia-Japan peace deal under negotiation, Russia may deploy hypersonic missiles in the Kuriles Islands (1,600 km away), if not deployed already.
Joe Biden has managed to divide the world in two groups because of the Ukraine conflict – one headed by the Anglo Saxons and another group comprising the rest. But how do Anglo Saxons view the rest of the world? One example is the view by Paul Keating, former Prime Minister of Australia (1991-1996) about the Quad, saying:
The moment a loud shot is fired, the Indians would lock themselves in their peninsula and the Japanese would do what they always do, negotiate from under the table. That would leave the United States and mugs like us carrying a military fight to the Chinese all by our righteous selves.
India is having us all. India enjoys the impenetrable wall of the Himalayas on its north and the protection of two oceans around its distended peninsula. And it has a population younger, and
as large as that of China. It is in an undefeatable position. And no power would try to defeat it – certainly not the Chinese.
India, a founder of the non-aligned movement, has historically been allergic to alliances, having no desire whatsoever to put all its eggs into one basket – something it will never do. But here we are in Australia, at the strategic casino, putting all our money on black, thinking the Indians will turn up for a major showdown with the Chinese. While the Japanese know, in such a fight, China will obliterate them.
The message is loud and clear no matter what the present hierarchy of Australia, the UK and the US say. The Anglo-Saxons would like India and Japan to fight for them, not the other way round; and Australia considers itself the sucker – like Ukraine?
NATO says it is working on a new strategy to include the China threat. Jens Stoltenberg, NATO General Secretary, recently stated, “We are the strongest military alliance in the history of the world. We can destroy every country in the world.” Stoltenberg is a politician, hyper-venting like a modern-day Hitler because he has just been given an extension. But the US-NATO knows very well that any direct war with Russia and China, worse still with both, cannot be won because it will be nuclear. Therefore, American strategy is to let others fight, sell arms, and make money in the process.
By Lt Gen Prakash Katoch