Reorientation Of Priorities In Asia Pacific – OpEd


New security agreements in the Asia Pacific – including Quad and AUKUS – will promote instability and nuclear proliferation in the region by unnecessarily increasing the military capabilities of the signatories. This includes equipping them with advanced weapon systems such as missiles, more robust intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR), nuclear powered submarines under AUKUS, and training and technical assistance to improve defense capabilities.

The US is also planning to put in place cooperative security and defense mechanism to strengthen cooperation and coordination with allies to enable them to better respond to security threats. The US has already begun regular military exercises with its allies in the region. 

The Quad includes the US, Australia, India, Australia, and Japan. India is given more significant regional role and receives tremendous defense-related aid from the West. The growing US-India relations aim to assert dominance in the Asia Pacific. Such a move will inevitably challenge the maritime security of more or less all regional states, including Pakistan. While Quad may serve US-India interests against China, it also serves India’s interests against Pakistan. 

Regional countries in the Asia Pacific primarily focus on their national interest, which is to have stable relations with major power, i.e., China and the US. Australia, India, Japan, South Korea, and the Philippines have welcomed the US presence in the region and have deepened their security cooperation. At the same time, they enjoy strong economic relations with and dependence on China.   

China sees these developments with concern. China Arms Control and Disarmament Association (CACDA) and China Institute of Nuclear Industry Strategy released a report titled A Dangerous Conspiracy: The nuclear proliferation risk of the nuclear-powered Submarines Collaboration in the Context of AUKUS, on July 20, 2022. The report examines the serious risks of nuclear proliferation and multiple hazardous impacts instigated by nuclear-powered submarine collaboration through the AUKUS deal, which includes eight nuclear-powered submarines involving the transfer of tons of weapons-grade nuclear materials provided to Australia by the US and UK. These materials are sufficient to produce nearly a hundred nuclear weapons, if used.

China’s other concern is maritime security in the South China Sea, where China thinks the US is violating its territorial integrity. For instance, Washington has conducted freedom of navigation operations in defiance of Chinese territories, raising tensions and damaging China-US relations. American strategy also includes economic factors, such as the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), formerly known as Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). China views these economic initiatives as an effort to shape regional trade rules which affect its economic interests.

However, other regional countries have followed a more vigilant approach, trying to sustain good relations with China and the US. Countries, including the ASEAN, have emphasized the significance of regional stability, peaceful settlement of disputes, and respect for international law.

The new forms of US strategic partnerships in Asia Pacific may affect enduring bilateral relations with others, such as Pakistan. The US and Pakistan have cooperated in several stabilizing efforts, including those for counterterrorism. Traditionally, Pakistan has maintained a balanced policy in its relations with major powers, especially China and the US. The US strategy for the Asia Pacific is introducing new security partnerships and reorienting regional priorities and resources. However, major stakeholders of global politics must check any approach which may reshape the regional order creating an unending arms race and rivalry.  

Dr. Muhammad Muhammadi

Dr. Muhammad Muhammadi is an Associate Director Research at the Centre for International Strategic Studies (CISS), Islamabad. He holds a Ph.D. in Politics and International Relations from Shanghai International Studies University, Shanghai, PR China.

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