The exclusion of France, India and Japan indicates that at the drop of a hat those in the fold may be ousted
US should take the right approach with India
Previously, the role now to be assigned to AUKUS was envisaged to be undertaken in part by the Quad. However, several factors including the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue’s broader focus than just the military dimension perhaps made it unsuitable for the purpose. Some commentators have already noticed the absence of other important countries in the US-led anti-China bulwark – India and Japan – in this new AUKUS grouping.
Perhaps to prevent any fissures in its relationships with those countries and the Quad, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison was quick to make presumably reassuring phone calls to the leaders of both India and Japan. The Australian high commissioner in India, Barry O’Farrell, also spoke of India being in the loop before the AUKUS announcement was made public. Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato also conveyed a positive reaction to the announcement.
However, the resultant chaos around the exclusion of France, India and Japan is reminiscent of a game of geopolitical musical chairs – where at the drop of a hat rebalancing may occur and those in the fold may be ousted. This will inevitably bring chaos and uncertainty to the balance of power in the region.
India for its part has developed closer and closer ties to the US in the domain of strategic and defense cooperation, including the signing of such agreements as the Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement (LEMOA), BECA (Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement), COMCASA (the Communications Compatibility and Security Agreement) and the Communications Interoperability and Security Memorandum of Agreement (CISMOA).
These agreements are significant to Indian strategic and military capabilities by virtue of providing unprecedented access to key communications technology and data streams that can vastly improve the accuracy of India’s missile arsenal. However, they are not likely to give India autonomous capabilities to benefit from or use as New Delhi wishes. This is in direct contrast to Russia’s willingness to lease sensitive military hardware like its advanced nuclear-propelled submarines of the Akula class.
Russia has also aided the development of India’s indigenous nuclear-submarine program, particularly its miniature onboard nuclear power plants. Washington’s broader strategic aim of dissuading India away from Russia has been characteristic of the “stick” approach, as evident from it mulling the imposition of sanctions over India’s S-400 purchase under the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA).
Washington would find much more success in this endeavor were it instead to follow a “carrots” approach by offering India one of its Seawolf-class advanced fast attack nuclear submarines on the same 10-year lease terms as the Russian Akulas. This scenario has the potential to draw India much closer to the US and might serve as a watershed move that could weaken Russo-Indian defense ties further.