What is AUKUS?

AUKUS is a trilateral security pact between Australia, the United Kingdom, and the United States, announced on 15 September 2021 for the Indo-Pacific region. Under the pact, the US and the UK will help Australia to acquire nuclear-powered submarines, though not equipped with nuclear weapons. It also allows for greater sharing of intelligence.

Major objectives of AUKUS

  • The deal is seen as a step toward curtailing China, which has made significant aggressive maneuvers in the Pacific region, especially in and around the South China Sea, where it has expansive territorial claims.
  • The nuclear-powered submarines will give Australia naval heft in the Pacific, where China has been particularly aggressive. While the US and Britain have had the capability for decades, Australia has never had any nuclear-powered submarine.

Initiatives by AUKUS

  • The first major initiative of AUKUS would be to deliver a nuclear-powered submarine fleet for Australia.
  • The announcement of AUKUS included the stated aim of improving joint capabilities and interoperability.
  • These initial efforts will focus on cyber capabilities, artificial intelligence, quantum technologies, and additional undersea capabilities.

China’s response:

  • China has condemned the agreement as “extremely irresponsible”.
  • Concerns raised by China:
  • The Alliance undermines regional peace and stability and intensifies the arms race.
  • It shall reinvent a “Cold War mentality and ideological prejudice”.

The rationale behind the formation of this alliance:

  • The new partnership was announced in a joint virtual press conference. And while China was not mentioned directly, the leaders of the U.S., Australia, and the U.K. referred repeatedly to regional security concerns which they said had “grown significantly”.
  • In recent years, Beijing has been accused of raising tensions in disputed territories such as the South China Sea.
  • Western nations have been wary of China’s infrastructure investment on Pacific islands, and have also criticized China’s trade sanctions against countries like Australia.

Why nuclear-powered submarines?

  • These submarines are much faster and harder to detect than conventionally powered fleets. They can stay submerged for months, shoot missiles longer distances, and also carry more.
  • Having them stationed in Australia is critical to US influence in the region, analysts say.
  • The US is sharing its submarine technology for the first time in 50 years. It had previously only shared technology with the UK.
  • Australia will become just the seventh nation in the world to operate nuclear-powered submarines, after the US, UK, France, China, India, and Russia.
  • Australia has reaffirmed it has no intention of obtaining nuclear weapons.

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