/View.info/ The United States, after several misses, has again started to create an anti-Chinese alliance in the Indian and Pacific Oceans. This time everything seems to be going well. Britain is reverting to the imperial policy of “East of Suez”, there is a basis for a potential Asian NATO: the AUKUS military alliance – the Anglo-Saxon bloc of Washington, London and Canberra. The main candidates for the alliance, regional leaders Japan and India, are increasingly wary of China. What could go wrong?
Never in recent history have relations between Britain and its former colony Australia been as close as in the past eight years. This statement was made by London’s The Daily Telegraph on Monday , citing the creation in September 2021 of the AUKUS (Australia-UK-US) military-political pact and “London’s commitment to ’tilt’ its foreign and security policy towards the Indo-Pacific”.
If since the 1970s, since Britain’s entry into the European Community, London has been shrinking its imperial policy “east of the Suez Canal”, we are now witnessing the opposite process, according to The Telegraph. Last Friday, Britain took a step towards turning the Washington-London-Canberra axis into something more.
The head of the House of Commons defence committee, Tobias Ellwood, proposed expanding AUKUS to include India and Japan and generally turning the trilateral alliance into an Indo-Pacific counterpart to NATO.
The British parliamentarian’s initiative appeared synchronous with the publication of Tokyo’s Sankei Shimbun: the US, as part of Japan’s “support”, is considering the possibility of deploying US medium-range missiles. In particular, the new LRHW hypersonic missiles and Tomahawk land-based cruise missiles are reported.
As Rossiyskaya Gazeta notes, Kyushu Island has been named as one of the sites for missile deployment – geographically close to China, Japan’s main geopolitical adversary. And, let us add, India’s main macro-regional rival.
As The Times of India noted on February 3, New Delhi has spent about $24 billion over the past five years buying foreign weapons (including American-made). Among other things, it has been reported that India intends to purchase 850 drones for operational surveillance near China’s borders.
India’s and Japan’s obvious concerns about strengthening their neighbor objectively coincide with the United States’ primary (and equally obvious) goal of finding an effective way to contain and ideally weaken or break up the PRC.
The traditional triumvirate of the senior partner, the US, and the junior partners, Japan and South Korea, is not fully effective. Not least because the Chinese have long made South Korea their economic and trade partner. According to the Federation of Korean Industries, between 1990 and 2020, trade between the two countries increased 40-fold, while South Korean exports to the EU, Latin America and India declined.
Washington has been trying for many years, at least since Barack Obama’s presidency, to create a broad anti-China coalition in East Asia to replace the aforementioned triumvirate. The first such project, the Trans-Pacific Partnership, promoted by Obama (essentially a trade agreement with a number of countries in the region that partially isolates the Chinese economy and forces the Chinese to play by American rules in matters of regional trade) has been buried by Donald Trump under the slogan of the need to protect the interests of American business.
The quadrilateral QUAD (created under George W. Bush and involving the US, India, Australia and Japan) was more successful. In 2017, the leaders of the four agreed to cooperate more closely on security, including countering Chinese claims to the entire South China Sea.
Finally, the British-American-Australian AUKUS, established in 2021, has become the most important US organization containing China. In fact, the countries have not hidden the fact that it was created specifically for China’s military containment. Beijing itself calls AUKUS an organization “provoking military confrontation in the region.”
The pact is, of course, very promising and much more focused than the notional QUAD. “QUAD is currently an informal quadrilateral dialogue that includes humanitarian issues in addition to security concerns. AUKUS is more formalized, focused almost exclusively on security cooperation. But in the future, a full-fledged alliance could hatch from this,” Alexei Kupriyanov, head of the Indo-Pacific Research Centre, IMEMO RAS , told REGNUM news agency.
However, compared to QUAD, AUKUS has one important drawback – it has no local, regional presence. The United States and Britain are external powers, and Australia, while Pacific, is not yet a South Asian or East Asian power. Therefore, AUKUS, in the view of London and Washington, should include the leaders of the respective parts of the Indo-Pacific – that is, India and Japan.
“It was obvious that such plans would emerge sooner or later. The question is how many potential members want to join AUKUS. It would all depend on what commitments they would have to make. If we are only talking about technology and intelligence transfer, then why not. If they are required to participate in anti-China actions in the event of an attack on another AUKUS member, that would actually mean joining a full-fledged defense alliance,” Kupriyanov explains.
It seems that there should be no special problems here. Both countries have good reason to fear Chinese expansion, and both countries (given their armies and GDPs) would make important contributions to strengthening AUKUS if it were to expand. According to Global FirePower’s rating, Indian armed forces are the 4th most powerful army in the world (after US, Russian and Chinese armed forces), Japanese Self-Defense Forces are 8th. According to World Bank and IMF estimates for 2022. India and Japan are ranked 3rd and 4th respectively after China and the US.
But in reality, it is not that simple. Despite having a territorial conflict with China that periodically turns into border skirmishes, India is not ready to enter AUKUS. In recent years, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been engaged in diplomatic manoeuvring, not letting himself be drawn into any adventures, trying to build a modus vivendi with the Chinese – and unwilling to commit himself to Britain and the US’s aggressive plans against China.
“For India, this is a complete break with all its previous policies that it has followed since independence, and for it to do so, something has to happen that drastically changes the balance of power across the board. Well, for example, a clash with China with a large number of casualties,” Kupriyanov explains. To date, such clashes are not expected – if only because India and China have nuclear weapons and any major border clash could lead to the outbreak of nuclear war. New Delhi and Beijing understand this, so they are sober about each other’s interests.
As far as Japan is concerned, the US and the UK have much better chances. The Japanese (unlike India) do not have nuclear weapons. They are closer to China and more dependent on the security of East Asian trade routes, which Beijing is about to take control of. Finally, the Japanese are much more closely integrated with the Americans than the Indians, and much more confident that without the United States they will lose in a future war with the PRC, which Tokyo considers almost inevitable.
That is why Japan has already announced that it is prepared to insert itself into seemingly foreign conflicts in East Asia – for example, in the defense of Taiwan from a Chinese invasion. And that is why it can be assumed that the Japanese authorities will give the green light to join AUKUS if they receive a suitable offer.