What does India stand to gain/lose from AUKUS?

What is the AUKUS arrangement?

The new foreign defense arrangement was announced last month between Australia, United Kingdom and the United States of America, known as AUKUS. Under this new AUKUS defense cooperation, the United States and United Kingdom will provide Australia with technology and capability to build eight nuclear propelled submarines. This deal is largely viewed as a trilateral effort to balance China, who have been making significant and aggressive maneuvers in the Indo-Pacific, even if the leaders of these three countries haven’t claimed so.

What does this mean for India?

Yet for India, this new defense agreement is inextricably tied to its own participation in the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (Quad). Especially when AUKUS highlights some of the dilemmas that India faces with regards to the Quad such as whether to share or pass the burden of containing China in the Indo-Pacific and also to whether commit to an even greater reliance on the United States as its defense partner.

The United States have also made it clear that it will not be extending this very deal to other regional powers such as India and Japan, both of which are members of the Quad. Such agreements and groupings often don’t overlap with one another in terms of their aims, objectives and members but India’s exclusion from AUKUS has drawn questions on how this deal has seemingly undermined its expanding regional and indeed its global influence.

Impact on Quad Arrangement and dialogue between the United States, India, Japan and Australia

The Indian Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla stated that the deal was neither relevant to the Quad nor will it have any impact on its functioning. This statement was released just before the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi was to visit the United States for the first in-person Quad summit, in an attempt to downplay the significance of AUKUS for India and stall any distractions from the summit.

Harsh Vardhan Shringla stated last month that the Quad and AUKUS are not groupings of similar nature and that Quad is a plurilateral grouping of countries with a shared vision of their attributes and values, where the four members of the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue have a shared vision of  the Indo-Pacific as a free, open,  transparent and inclusive region. He also added,” On the other hand, the AUKUS is a security alliance between three countries” and that India was not part of this alliance nor will it impact the functioning of the Quad.

The United States of America welcomes yet another multinational foreign policy under President Joe Biden. Moreover, even though India has been excluded from this deal, it nonetheless increases the burden sharing in the region at large.

Mixed feelings on AUKUS Impact On India’s Influence

According to a few reports, Mr. Shringla’s statements and efforts to downplay AUKUS might have harboured mixed feelings on the deal behind closed doors in New Delhi. Some believe that the AUKUS could be utilized as a mechanism to furthermore forward the common agenda of the Indo-Pacific countries, securing a free and open Indo-Pacific. Aside from paving way for Australia to deploy nuclear-propelled submarines, the deal also covers a wide-ranging key areas of security such as artificial intelligence, cyber warfare, underwater and long range capabilities.

The fact that this deal was announced just before the first in-person Quad summit, has lead to assert that this deal would not only restrict India’s access to critical technologies and network sharing capabilities, it also indicates how the US is relegating its Indo-Pacific engagement with India to less substantive issues. This deal’s sudden announcement has raised concerns over the US training its efforts on forming a security paradigm with its “Anglo-Saxon” partners.

Are India’s concerns about the AUKUS deal valid?

Another major concern for India is that this deal has done little to deter China, which is constantly improving its military infrastructure and capabilities. Therefore this new announcement of the AUKUS deal will only lead to further militarization of India’s neighborhood which is increasingly becoming unstable and volatile.

Adding to this the Chinese Foreign Ministry has said that this deal severely undermines regional peace and stability, intensifies arms race and undermines international non-proliferation efforts. Beijing also warned that the slightest provocations will be punished with no mercy.

The Future Of Regional Security For India

In this case, while AUKUS might be seen as an undermining or even perhaps eroding India’s regional influence, the deal does offer New Delhi the promise of strengthened regional security without the expenditure of diplomatic, strategic or financial resources.

India is carefully watching the agreement’s execution from the sidelines making sure that any developing schemes from China would create chaos among countries but hopes the Quad agreement will have to intervene to ensure free and open Indo-Pacific.

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