As a recent development, a maritime defense pact has been initiated between Australia, the United Kingdom, and the United States named as (AUKUS). The nature of the pact elaborates that Australia would be building its first nuclear-powered submarines by the technology and assistance acquired from the United Kingdom and the United States. The AUKUS, which has raised serious concerns of initiating another arms race in the Pacific Ocean, is a bold violation of Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) by major nonproliferation advocates.
UK’s premier Boris Johnson mentioned ‘this is fundamentally a great step forward for global security. It is basically the three very like-minded allies standing shoulder to shoulder creating a new partnership for sharing the technology and, it is not exclusive. It is not trying to shoulder anybody out. It is not adversarial towards China.’ Yet, it is obvious that AUKUS is formed to contain China in the Asia-Pacific, if not so, why Australia abandoned its diesel-supported submarine deal with France and signed nuclear-powered submarine pact with UK and US? while the response of QUAD members is believed to come.
Articles I, II, III of the Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) states that, nuclear weapon states (NWS) are not to transfer to any recipient whatsoever nuclear weapons technology and not to assist, encourage, or induce any NNWS to manufacture or otherwise acquire them. In this case, the apparentdecline of American power and willingness to maintain global balances has resulted in a general deterioration of regional security. However, the future US transfer of such weaponry in the region and the name of extended deterrence will provoke a cascade effect on peace, and it willaffect an already crippled non-proliferation regime.
In March 1963, the US President John F. Kennedy stated that every man, woman, and child lives under a nuclear sword of Damocles, hanging by the slenderest of threads, capable of being cut at any moment by accident or miscalculation or by madness. The weapons of war must be abolished before they abolish us. Critically, the recent security pact between the US, UK, and Australia is more likely to violate internationally recognized covenants of nuclear nonproliferation, rather than, maintaining the standards of the NPT and promoting peace.
Certainly, AUKUS intends to contain China in the Asia-Pacific region, while China condemned the so-called defense agreement as ‘extremely irresponsible’. Chinese officials stated that the treaty intensifies the situation, and has escalated the arms race in the region. Although AUKUS made headlines about the triangular pact against China, the pact caused issues with other allies also “Namely France”. Under the trilateral security agreement for the Asia-Pacific region has neglected Paris indulgent in the security alliance, with this Australia, came to cut-off the diesel submarine deal with France, worth of 90 billion dollars. French spokesperson mentioned that ‘it’s a stab in the back’, indeed it is.
Moreover, the pact risks by compromising the long-term nonproliferation interest to short-term militarism interests. With this, it triggers a diplomatic crisis between Paris, Canberra, and Washington. The regional countries have expressed concerns over the transfer of nuclear technology and a potential arms race, while QUAD also exists to tackle security, health, and economic issues in the region. However, Australia has stressed over AUKUS that we have no desire to acquire a nuclear weapon or civil nuclear capability, but a pact to transfer technology. AUKUS reflects, that it is a sub-security agreement of the QUAD which will in near future reveal its objectives and expand its alliances from regional to intra-regional.
Unsurprisingly, Moscow and Beijing reacted negatively to the trilateral arrangement. Russia is more “concerned” that a security agreement (AUKUS) is a major challenge to the international nuclear non-proliferation regime. There has been a warning from China to AUKUS that could put Australia in the atomic hair-cross. The pact reflects a great power competition between major powers ‘new cold war.’ In the case of the recent security pact, New Zealand Premier has expressed negative remarks that they would not allow nuclear-powered submarines in New Zealand territorial waters. But it certainly cannot avoid the diplomatic and strategic fallout.
The nuclearization of the Asia-Pacific Ocean is a threat to all littoral states. Particularly for the arch-rival countries like Pak-India and Sino-India over such territorial disputes. An arms race in the region could trigger an imbalance of power and escalates the threat to nuclear proliferation. While, India is opposing China over such disputes that may exist silent by nature, but exists on record. Undoubtedly, India will seek to be a part of AUKUS in near future, to deter Pakistan and China. In response, Beijing will come up with a plan or a pact to counter these policies.
To conclude, this security pact speaks that the new world order is an illusion and ‘might is right’ still rules as the Neo-Colonial imperials disregarding global nonproliferation norms. The world powers should exceed towards negotiations and solve the obstacles by exchange of diplomatic interests rather than proceeding to increased competitiveness. International community, human rights organizations and academia should urge United Nation Security Council (UNSC) to prohibit the escalation of nuclear proliferation in the region. IAEA and other working institutions must assure that the terms of NPT are not supposed to be violated by the major powers (AUKUS). Violating international norms and morality of nuclear nonproliferation will bring nothing but a threat to global peace and an unwelcomed escalation of arms race in the world. It will keep human life in danger and inter-state diplomacy in crisis.
*Sheraz Wahid is currently working as Research Assistant at Balochistan Think Tank Network (BTTN). BUITEMS, Quetta. He completed his Master’s in ‘International Relations’ from University of Balochistan, Quetta.