AUKUS gives Canberra special treatment, a psychological blow for Japan, India as Quad members
Published: Sep 18, 2021 12:44 AM
Photo: GT

Photo: GT

The US, the UK and Australia on Wednesday announced that they will form an enhanced trilateral security partnership called AUKUS. It seems that Australia, as a member of the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, also known as the Quad, has won some "special treatment" from Washington compared with the other two members of the Quad - Japan and India. On September 24, US President Joe Biden will host the Quad Leaders Summit at the White House. 

AUKUS will have a huge psychological impact on Japan and India. The establishment of AUKUS shows that although the three countries are all under the Quad framework, the US' position toward Australia is very different from that toward Japan and India.

First of all, Australia is the hub of the US Indo-Pacific Strategy, with the Indian Ocean to its west and the Pacific Ocean to its east. The US has many military bases and allies in the Northern Hemisphere, but its global strategic alliance network in the Southern Hemisphere seems to be relatively weak. 

AUKUS will support Australia in acquiring nuclear-powered submarines and enabling its patrol of nuclear-powered submarines in the Indo-Pacific region. This time, the US has taken advantage of AUKUS and the close US-UK alliance to further strengthen Australia's political advantage in the US alliance network. Neither India nor Japan has such geopolitical competitiveness.

The US has been trying to rope in India. Washington's main purpose is to extend its Asia-Pacific strategy westward to the Indian Ocean. However, India is interested in its Act East policy. Although Washington and New Delhi may have common interests, the two sides still have significant differences as well.

Although India has closely followed the US strategically in recent years, it seems that the US has repeatedly disappointed India. Some Indian people have started to question whether the US will unconditionally support India in a critical moment. This being the case, India will not completely turn to the US side like Australia. Washington and New Delhi have different political needs. After all, India does not want to become another ally of the US. It has bigger ambitions - it even wants to become "another US." 

As for Japan, its alliance with the US can be an advantage. However, Japan's domestic political and legal conditions do not meet the US' needs. After the end of WWII, Japan adopted a non-nuclear weapon policy - a policy popularly articulated as the Three Non-Nuclear Principles of non-possession, non-production, and non-introduction of nuclear weapons.

As AUKUS will share core technology and intelligence, some analysts believe that the US may focus on helping Australia develop its military strength and make it a US "guard dog" in Asia. Although Japan has always dreamed of winning this title, it lacks the practical conditions and the US does not have such a will.

AUKUS will definitely affect the strategic choices of Japan and India. Japan, India and Australia were nominally equal partners of the US under the Quad framework. But suddenly, the US offered special treatment to Australia. This is a blow for India and Japan, although the two countries shouldn't have expected Washington to share sensitive core technologies with them.

By launching AUKUS, the US aims at building a more solid and broad foundation for its Indo-Pacific Strategy. According to the US' vision, AUKUS and the Quad should complement each other. Washington wants to rope in its allies from both the Eastern and Western hemispheres into the Indo-Pacific Strategy. 

But this is only the US' wishful thinking. Objectively speaking, at least in the foreseeable future, the psychological blow of AUKUS on Japan and India will last for a period of time. The US administration has not reached a balance between its own interests and those of its allies and partners. AUKUS' negative impact on the Quad and the US itself will outweigh its positive impact.

The author is a senior research fellow at the China Institute of International Studies. opinion@globaltimes.com.cn