India and Japan will not be joining the newly announced US’s trilateral security partnership with Australia and Britain – dubbed AUKUS- to counter China’s increased activities in the Indo-Pacific region.
On September 15, US President Joe Biden, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced the trilateral security alliance AUKUS under which Australia would get a fleet of nuclear-powered submarines.
After the launch of a security alliance between Australia, the UK and the US (AUKUS), India has been wary about militarising the Quad – the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue – it conducts with Australia, Japan and the United States.
“The announcement of AUKUS last week was not meant to be an indication, and I think this is the message the President also sent to (French President Emmanuel) Macron, that there is no one else who will be involved in security in the Indo-Pacific,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters at her daily news conference on Wednesday.
While India has sought to publicly downplay the impact of the recently launched security alliance between Australia, the UK and the US (AUKUS) on the Quad – both of whom are focused on the Indo-Pacific region – it is secretly pleased that the latter group has been “de-securitised” as a result.
India has been wary about militarising the Quad – the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue – it conducts with Australia, Japan and the United States. AUKUS, with its unabashedly security bearing, has “de-securitised” the Quad, and this “is what we have wanted”, a person familiar with these discussions said on condition of being identified only as a source.
“We have no intention of militarising the Quad”, the source added, on the eve of crucial talks Prime Minister Narendra Modi is scheduled to hold with US officials over the next two days.
The person insisted that a lot of people have mistakenly tied the Malabar military exercises – which India has hosted and conducted with Japan and the US for years and now Australia – to the Quad as the group’s security and defence aspects.
They are “not linked”, said the source.
There was some talk in the waning days of the Trump administration of giving the Quad a formal structure, something like an Indo-Pacific version of the Nato military alliance.
India has enthusiastically welcomed the non-military and non-security direction the Quad has taken in recent months as it has elevated its exchanges to the summit level, driven by US President Joe Biden, the source said, pointing to the three working groups launched at the virtual summit of the leaders in March: on vaccines, emerging technologies and climate.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi will join President Joe Biden, Australia’s Scott Morrison and Japan’s Yoshihide Suga for the first in-person summit of the Quad leaders on Friday. Joe Biden, the host, indicated this in his maiden UN General Assembly speech on Tuesday and their talks will be focused on tackling “challenges ranging from health security to climate to emerging technologies”.
France had criticised its exclusion from the alliance, saying it reflects a lack of coherence when common challenges are being faced in the Indo-Pacific region.
“Of course, it’s an important topic in conversations with the French, with a range of countries who have a direct interest in the region,” she said.
Psaki was responding to a question if countries like India and Japan whose leaders would be in town this week for the Quad Summit would be made part of the security alliance.
The Quad comprises India, the US, Japan and Australia.
The US is hosting the in-person Quad summit in Washington on September 24.
“On Friday? you’ll have the Australians there (for the Quad summit). But then you also have India and Japan. Would you envision for them a similar kind of military role that you’ve now defined for with the Australians?? a journalist asked.
“AUKUS? What would it become? JAUKUS? JAIAUKUS??
Psaki said in lighter moments before giving answer to the question.
The trilateral security alliance, seen as an effort to counter China in the Indo-Pacific, will allow the US and the UK to provide Australia with the technology to develop nuclear-powered submarines for the first time.
China has sharply criticised the trilateral alliance, saying such grouping has no future and will gravely undermine regional stability and aggravate the arms race and hurt international non-proliferation efforts.