France economy

Does AUKUS sound the death knell for Quad or the icing on the cake?


What the secret agreement means for all the nations involved

As the world continues to reverberate over the humiliating U.S. withdrawal (aka defeat) from Afghanistan with its regional and global fallout – the heat of which has also reached the current UNGA session – the world’s attention has been skillfully moved to a new home in the Pacific and East Asia, potentially with greater alarm and ramification.

The secret affair
It emanates from the signing of a secret agreement between the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia forming a trilateral security pact and equipping the latter with eight nuclear-powered submarines, terminating an earlier trade agreement concluded between the beneficiary country and France five
years ago, under which France would have supplied 12 diesel submarines to Australia by 2036.

France is genuinely furious at the cancellation of the $ 66 billion deal and has, in an unprecedented diplomatic gesture, recalled its top emissaries from Washington and Canberra. However, observers said the emerging security dynamics as well as China’s upward economic and military trajectory were the raison d’être for the conclusion of the secret deal now known as AUKUS, which won the day. away based on the agreement between France and Australia.

There seems to be a reconfiguration of strategic or security alliances, after the American war (NATO) of two decades against the Muslim countries of the ME, which is emerging, as a consequence of the displacement of the theater of conflicts.

The post-war world has witnessed a bipolar military alliance between the NATO and Warsaw Pact countries led respectively by the United States and the Soviet Union, both armed to the teeth of nuclear weapons, which in a sense provided balanced and mutual deterrence in the world order. , known as Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD).

The ill-advised and ambitious invasion of Afghanistan by the former Soviet Union in the late 1970s led to its disastrous withdrawal in 1989 after a futile and bloody occupation, triggering its eventual collapse in 1991, followed by the disintegration of the Union as well as the Warsaw Pact. itself as a domino effect. The world watched in horror at an unprecedented tectonic shift in military might, presenting the United States with the title of unipolar superpower on a platter.

Main developments in the Middle East
In the meantime, two major events have taken place in Afghanistan and the Middle East. The Afghan mujahedin, who were trained, funded, and armed by the United States to fight the Soviets in a proxy war, turned their guns on their former benefactors after the Soviets withdrew.

On the other hand, in August 1990, Iraq, believing it to have the silent assent of the United States, committed a blunder by invading Kuwait, without knowing that it was a set trap. Soon the United States, knowing full well that a wounded, defeated and disintegrated Russia had neither the means nor the desire to challenge it, invaded Iraq, permanently preventing it from posing a threat to its neighbors.

Then came September 11, as a nightmare shattering the United States’ longstanding complacency that it was immune from outside attack. George W Bush, then President of the United States – who, it should be remembered, was not elected by popular vote but was deemed elected by a controversial Supreme Court decision – found him to be a godsend from heaven .

He skillfully used tragedy to reorganize his popular side and declared a global war on terrorism, leading the United States to a two-decade-long war invading and decimating Muslim countries from Afghanistan to Iraq to Iraq. Libya, Syria, Yemen and a few others, killing millions of innocent people – men, women, children and the elderly – the list of chaos, cruelty and crimes against humanity can go on and on.

Meanwhile in China

As the United States trampled on world order and international rules, and reduced the UN to a helpless bystander, like a raging beast, China, a historically tortured and humiliated nation that had nothing to do with it all. pride and this power play, cautiously focused its attention on developing its economy, eradicating poverty, creating prosperity for the people and the country, developing science and technology and becoming the second largest economy in the world when it was a third world country only a few decades ago.

At the same time, China has also built its army in a position where it can today withstand any challenge from any external threat or coercion. With the calculated use of its newfound wealth and soft power, China has patiently created its sphere of economic and strategic circles through various concentric groupings and organizations.

China has also made it clear that it is not alone in pursuing its global interests and has created an informal strategic alliance with countries like Russia, which has now regained its lost global relevance, and Iran, Turkey and Pakistan, which face external threats.

American nervousness

Lately, the United States has realized that its only military and economic supremacy in the world is gradually eroding and facing considerable challenges from China, which is fast becoming a major rival for the United States. , although it remains far ahead in terms of military power.

Yet the nervousness of the United States is palpable. Additionally, as a military superpower, it also feels psychological pressure to demonstrate its strategic reach and capabilities.

It was under these constraints that the United States recognized the futility and waste of getting bogged down in manageable peripheral irritations and pivoted its focus into a larger web with far greater implications.

So this required the United States to share its top secret nuclear technology with Australia, helping it to build eight nuclear submarines, as soon as possible, effectively thwarting China’s naval dominance in the Pacific and l ‘East Asia. The only other country with which the United States shared this technology was the United Kingdom in 1958. A clear manifestation of the seriousness of the UKUS.

AUKUS, although appearing as an exclusive entity due to the structure of the pact, will essentially also involve Quad’s other partners as active players strengthening the trilateral agreement. In addition, AUKUS will also serve as NATO’s extension in the Pacific, as two of its important members are involved.

To me, that doesn’t sound like a strong argument that the AKUS will dismiss the Quad. The Quad – involving Australia, India, Japan and the United States, and which was formed at the behest of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in 2007 – has found new life after a decade of hibernation, after that Donald Trump became President of the United States, with a view to containing China, if necessary by military force, under the rubric of what she called FOIP (Free and Open Indo Pacific).

FOIP is unambiguously a security alliance and, since 2017, has organized regular naval exercises called Malabar Naval Exercise. In order to dispel any doubt, President Joe Biden held a face-to-face meeting with Quad leaders at the White House, whose agenda includes, among others, FOIP.

As expected, the Chinese government has reacted strongly against the formation of AUKUS, calling it totally irresponsible. Whether China remains contained in mere declarations or tries to counter AUKUS by starting a new arms race is a matter of guesswork.

Implications for the region

As for the implications this will have for the whole region and in particular the challenges for our region, only time will tell.

For Bangladesh, it is certainly a monumental challenge to define our foreign policy on this particular issue, keeping in mind our basic guiding principles of “friendship with all and wickedness towards no one”, non-alignment, and in particular the country’s current upward economic trajectory is benefiting. Our diplomacy has matured sufficiently over the decades, and I am sure it will rise to the occasion and the task.

Ashraf ud Doula is a former government secretary and has served as ambassador to a number of countries.