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UK Proposal to Extend AUKUS

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In the UK, Tobias Ellwood, Chairman of the House of Commons Defense Committee, has called for the AUKUS to be expanded and to include India and Japan.[1] The realization of this proposal could radically change the security of Asia-Pacific and the regional balance of power. As a matter of fact, the security activities of the West in the Asia-Pacific have increased recently, new alliances have emerged in the region or their scope has expanded.

The Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (QUAD) between India, Japan, the United States (US) and Australia, which was formalized in 2017, is currently being discussed to transform it into a broader collective defense organization or to integrate it with the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).[2] In this context, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg’s strategic dialogue with South Korea and Japan, as well as with India, can be interpreted as the expansion of NATO towards the Asia-Pacific.

Another formation that is thought to serve the USA’s strategy to contain China is AUKUS. This platform, which envisages the UK and USA to export nuclear submarine technology to Australia, is referred to as a defense-security alliance, unlike QUAD. It has been argued for a long time that Japan could also join AUKUS. However, to date, both the USA and the UK have denied the claims that Japan will participate in this cooperation.[3] It is therefore noteworthy that a proposal came from London to expand AUKUS.

Currently, the UK has not been willing to provide nuclear submarine technology to Japan and India until recently. In addition to the will of London, it should also be checked whether Tokyo and New Delhi have a request in this direction. In other words, the latest developments in the production of nuclear submarines of Japan and India and whether they ask for help from the USA and the UK in this sense should also be taken into account. Because this proposal may have no response in Tokyo and New Delhi. As a matter of fact, in the past, Japan has denied claims that it will join AUKUS.[4]

From an Indian point of view, if it had been much earlier than that, New Delhi might have been willing to join AUKUS. However, it cooperates with Russia in this field. Moscow, on the other hand, opposes New Delhi’s cooperation with the West in the field of critical-sensitive nuclear technology.[5] India may oppose joining AUKUS for several reasons. The first is Russia’s objection, as stated above. Moscow, for example, reacted in 2017 to a British delegation’s inspection of a Russian nuclear submarine on lease in India.[6]

Secondly, India requested assistance from Western powers in this direction until 2021, when AUKUS was signed; but the USA and the UK provided the technology in question to Australia, not India. Thereupon, India turned to seek cooperation with France in the field of nuclear submarines. Recently, cooperation has been reached between the two countries on joint submarine production.[7]

Third, India prefers to support the domestic defense industry in the production of nuclear submarines and is working to reduce the share of foreign defense companies.

Fourth, the New Delhi administration, considering that AUKUS is a defense alliance that directly targets China, may avoid participating in it and thus escalating military tensions in the region.

It would not be correct to evaluate the UK’s proposal to expand AUKUS independently of the regional and global conjuncture. First of all, it should be noted that; The Western World’s struggle against China is deepening. The aforementioned situation allows the USA and the UK to increase harmony in Asia-Pacific and to deepen their cooperation through alliances. As a matter of fact, it is an important question why the UK has not been included in the QUAD until today. At the same time, it is indicative of the diverging interests of the United States and Britain in the Asia-Pacific. But now England seems to have taken action to close this discord. Some analysts interpret the expansion of AUKUS to India and Japan as the UK’s effort to join QUAD.[8] Because these two actors (India and Japan) are also part of QUAD.

Britain aspires to establish defensive alliances in the Asia-Pacific, just as it does in Europe. QUAD, on the other hand, envisages cooperation between member states in areas such as maritime navigation and airspace security, joint exercises, fight against piracy and protection of the status quo in order to make the region free and open. In this respect, QUAD is rather than a defense alliance; It is a common platform aiming to contribute to regional security. Therefore, with its latest initiatives, the UK can contribute to the transformation of QUAD into a collective defense-security organization.

If Britain succeeds in involving India and Japan in an “anti-Chinese” regional formation, for example AUKUS; this may naturally pave the way for the formation of NATO-like alliances in Asia. The establishment of “anti-Chinese” alliances in the region is essentially the strategy of the Washington administration. However, London stands out as a useful actor in this strategy. Because India, in particular, does not want to be positioned against China. The USA, on the other hand, cannot persuade India in this regard.

Compared to Washington, London is better off with New Delhi. First of all, it’s his former colony and it may be easier to get him to accept what he wants. On the other hand, the USA also has positive relations with Japan. Therefore, while Britain intensified its cooperation with India on the way of establishing a regional defense alliance; The United States may also turn to convincing Japan.

As a result, expanding alliances in the Asia-Pacific is part of the US strategy to contain China. That’s why the UK’s latest offer is highly compatible with US interests. For this reason, it is possible to argue that actors such as India, South Korea, Japan, Australia, Canada, New Zealand and France will continue to expand the circle of alliances in the region. On the other hand, it should be emphasized again that the British proposal does not belong to the government yet and has been brought to the agenda in the House of Commons. However, it can be argued that London will accelerate its polarizing policy in the Asia-Pacific in the near future.


[1] “UK’s House of Commons Defence Panel Calls for Expansion of AUKUS To Include India, Japan”, The Print, https://theprint.in/defence/uks-house-of-commons-defence-panel-calls-for-expansion-of-aukus-to-include-india-japan/1341460/, (Date of Accession: 30.01.2023).

[2] “NAIPTO-Toward a Eurasian, Transoceanic Multilateral Collective Defense Alliance”, Hudson, https://www.hudson.org/foreign-policy/naipto-toward-a-eurasian-transoceanic-multilateral-collective-defense-alliance, (Date of Accession: 04.01.2023).

[3] “US Denies Inviting Japan to Join Aukus Security Alliance”, SCMP, https://www.scmp.com/news/asia/east-asia/article/3174185/us-denies-inviting-japan-join-aukus-security-alliance, (Date of Accession: 30.01.2023).

[4] “Japan Denies Report of Invite to Join AUKUS To Develop Hypersonic Weapons”, The Week, https://www.theweek.in/news/world/2022/04/13/japan-denies-report-of-invite-to-join-aukus-to-develop-hypersonic-weapons.html, (Date of Accession: 30.01.2023).

[5] “British Team, Not the Americans, Visited India’s Russian Nuclear Submarine”, The Print, https://theprint.in/defence/british-eam-visited-indian-nuclear-submarine/15766/, (Date of Accession: 11.01.2023).

[6] Ibid.

[7] “India-France to Join Hands in Fighter and Submarine Design and Manufacturing”, Hindustan Times, https://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/indiafrance-to-join-hands-in-fighter-and-submarine-design-and-manufacturing-101672890137294.html, (Date of Accession: 11.01.2023).

[8] @MartijnRasser, “UK Asks To Join Quad”, Twitter, https://twitter.com/MartijnRasser/status/1619355392437362691?s=20&t=98F9P6uwD7FSnYrbt1HXdA, (Date of Accession: 30.01.2023).

Dr. Cenk TAMER
Dr. Cenk TAMER
Dr. Cenk Tamer graduated from Sakarya University, Department of International Relations in 2014. In the same year, he started his master's degree at Gazi University, Department of Middle Eastern and African Studies. In 2016, Tamer completed his master's degree with his thesis titled "Iran's Iraq Policy after 1990", started working as a Research Assistant at ANKASAM in 2017 and was accepted to Gazi University International Relations PhD Program in the same year. Tamer, whose areas of specialization are Iran, Sects, Sufism, Mahdism, Identity Politics and Asia-Pacific and who speaks English fluently, completed his PhD education at Gazi University in 2022 with his thesis titled "Identity Construction Process and Mahdism in the Islamic Republic of Iran within the Framework of Social Constructionism Theory and Securitization Approach". He is currently working as an Asia-Pacific Specialist at ANKASAM.