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Is there a change Australia’s nuclear weapons position under Turnbull?

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Since the early 1970s, Australian Governments have been strongly supportive of nuclear non-proliferation under the definitions of the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), signed by the McMahon Government in 1970 and ratified by the incoming Labor Whitlam Government in 1973.

Australia’s anti-nuclear position was even strengthened under Liberal-Coalition Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser, as the “green/anti-nuclear” movement was quickly growing in Australia at the time. With the exception of Prime Minister John Howard, who saw a changing Asia-Pacific nuclear balance, subsequent prime ministers Hawke, Keating, Rudd, and Gillard also strongly followed the non-proliferation line.

Paradoxically, every prime minister supported to various degrees, the development of uranium mining and export as an economic driver. The Fraser and later Rudd Governments argued that uranium exports should be used as a means to strengthen non-proliferation by demanding safeguards from customers.

Uranium exports have been controversial, with strong domestic protests over the years, governments trampling over indigenous wills, and deep party rifts within the Labor movement. Yet on the issue on non-proliferation, Australia had always been at the forefront in international forums.

Prior to the 1970s, Australia took a different view towards nuclear non-proliferation. In 1944, Australia supplied uranium ore to the Manhattan Project. Australian physicist Mark Oliphant played a major role in pushing the atomic bomb program in both Britain and the US before the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor in 1941.

However after World War II, the US Government reneged on its agreement to share nuclear technology with its allies. Then Australian Prime Minister Robert Menzies, granted Australia’s assistance to Britain in its quest for autonomous nuclear weapons, giving technical assistance and allowing nuclear tests in the Mont Bello Islands, Emu Field and Maralinga, on Australian soil between 1952 and 1963. Australia also participated in the development of the Blue Streak and bloodhound missiles, which were potential nuclear weapon delivery systems with Britain during this era.

The significance of Australian participation, which didn’t go unnoticed by Australian bureaucrats and politicians at the time, was that under section IX.3 of the proposed NPT, Australia would be able to claim nuclear status as it had participated in the production and detonation of nuclear weapons prior to 1st January 1967. Historical reports indicate that the Australian Government’s main motivation at the time, (including US pressure), was to prevent the proliferation of nuclear weapons in the local hemisphere, rather than seeking the abolishment of nuclear weapons.

Bureaucratic support from within the Australian defence and security establishment for a nuclear hedging position was strong at the. Wikileaks publication of diplomatic cables between Australia and the US on Iran’s bid to develop nuclear weapons indicated this. Notable Australian diplomat and former Director-General of the Office of National Assessments, Peter Varghese was reported as saying in his briefings to the United States that Australia didn’t see Iran as a ‘rogue state’ in its development of nuclear weapons as “Tehran’s nuclear program (was) within the paradigm of the laws of difference, noting that Iran’s ability to produce a nuclear weapon may be enough to meet it’s security objectives”.

Attempts during the 1950s and 1960s were made by a number of defence personnel, high placed public servants, academics, and right wing elements of the Liberal-Country Party to acquire nuclear weapons. Initially purchasing them from either Britain or the United States was advocated. Later developing an independent nuclear deterrent was favored.

Most of the active proponents for nuclear weapons were defence related personal. They developed a number of plans to acquire nuclear weapons from the British, or have the United States deploy them on Australian soil. Sir Philip Baxter, who was head of the Australian Atomic Energy Commission (AAEC) at the time, operated a clandestine research program to isolate the isotope U-235 from uranium,  the quality needed in the production of nuclear weapons. 

Some academics like Professor A. L. Burns of the Australian National University also advocated an Australian nuclear option which was aired by the Australian media at the time, especially in relation to the Chinese testing a nuclear bomb and the belief that Indonesia was also developing nuclear weapons. Pressure groups like the Democratic Labor Party and Returned Soldiers League which were both influential during the 1960s also strongly advocated an Australian nuclear weapon option.

The reluctance of the Australian Government to go ahead with the development of its own nuclear weapons all changed after Prime Minister Menzies retirement, when John Gorton unexpectedly became prime minister after the disappearance of Prime Minister Harold Holt in 1967. John Gorton, an ex-RAAF pilot strongly believed that Australia should have its own independent nuclear deterrent with the Chinese in possession of nuclear weapons in the region. Plans went underway to develop a nuclear facility at Jervis Bay on the South Coast of New South Wales that would house both a nuclear reactor, which could produce weapons grade plutonium, and bomb manufacturing facilities.

Gorton tried to develop an Australian nuclear weapon capability before the NPT was signed. However in March 1971, he was disposed by William McMahon, who cancelled all nuclear weapon development plans. It will always remain a matter of conjecture how much influence the US had in his decision.

Moving back to the present day, two recent reactions to recent events by the Turnbull Government could hint of a change in thinking about Australia’s strong non-proliferation position.

Firstly, Australia’s tradition of supporting non-proliferation in international forums has been broken. Australia failed to support the recent United Nations resolution to outlaw nuclear weapons on the floor of the General Assembly last month to the surprise and astonishment of many interested in this issue. Secondly, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull failed to give Melbourne based International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) director Beatrice Fihn a congratulatory call after been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. This seems significant in what can be considered Austria’s first Nobel Peace Prize.

In addition Foreign Minister Julie Bishop’s rhetoric about nuclear weapons soon about to spread through the region indicates a change in Canberra’s world view.

This is not yet a policy shift, but perhaps recognition that nuclear weapons for Australia may need to be an option. However, even if nuclear weapons were to be an option, the road ahead for any government would be rocky, if not almost fatal without a need the public would accept. 

The regional environment has changed dramatically over the last few years. China is rising rapidly economically and will become the world’s largest economy very soon. China’s military capacity is rising in accordance with her aspirations, and is asserting itself in the South China Sea, a region it has historically seen as its sphere of influence. Many pundits would claim that these actions should be expected with China’s re-emergence. However with this expansion of Chinese forces, the balance of power between China vis a vis the US is rapidly shifting.

This is by no means a direct threat to the security of Australia. It’s a new equilibrium that the region should be able to get comfortable with. Many are. However China’s rise in military force is prompting countries like India to upgrade its nuclear arsenal to much more powerful thermonuclear weapons.

The unstable part of the equation is North Korea’s development of thermonuclear weapons and delivery systems which may prompt nuclear latent states like Japan and South Korea change their status. This would make the Asia-Pacific on a par with Europe in regards to the nuclear of nuclear players.

Another important issue of the strategic equation is Australia’s relative decline in military capacity against other countries within the region. Australia’s ability to project itself militarily is almost non-existent now. Australia’s prestige as a ‘coldwar’ middle power is a long gone myth in the region today. Here, it is more Australian prestige rather than security that is of threat here.

The US extended nuclear deterrent (END) is another myth Canberra must contend with. Unlike Canada which is part of Continental North America and covered by the US nuclear umbrella, Australia is an isolated country in another part of the world. The US sound surveillance system (SOSUS) which is a nuclear submarine early warning system is not deployed around Australia’s continual shelf. In addition, Australia should learn the lesson of US involvement in the Falklands War between Britain and Argentina, where the US was primarily neutral. Australia cannot depend on direct US military assistance in any future potential regional military conflict.

It should also be said here, that Japan and South Korea pay enormous amounts of money for US protection. Australia has been expecting to get it virtually free for too long.

Australia’s capability to develop nuclear weapons is better than most. The Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organization (ANSTO) at Lucas Heights, replacing the AAEC in 1987 is an internationally renowned centre of nuclear research. Australia has also developed some advanced indigenous uranium refining technology, the SILEX process using lasers, which is much more economical and cheaper than the traditional centrifuge technology. Australia has large reserves of uranium and a stockpile of semi-refined uranium at Lucas heights. Australia also has a certain degree of bomb making technology that it gained from participation with Britain in the nuclear tests during the 1950s and its own endeavours back in the 1970s. Australia has the Lockheed Martin F-35A Lightning II fighter, Boeing F/A-18a & B Hornet, and the F/A 18F Super Hornet as capable medium range delivery systems.  Australia also has a range of nuclear capable cruise missiles which can be launched from aircraft, ships, and submarines.

However, this doesn’t mean developing a nuclear arsenal would be an easy project for any future government. The project would be a major one requiring special budgeting, which would mean curtailing other budget expenditure. This could be very difficult in today’s economic environment.

In addition, public opinion would most likely be against the idea, unless a major threat was collectively perceived against the nation. North Korean threats against Australia were not enough. The establishment of Japanese and South Korean nuclear arsenals would not be enough. Maybe an event closer to home such as Indonesia developing nuclear weapons would change public opinion. Maybe that might not even be enough. It may take something drastic like a nuclear Indonesia and some sort of Iranian like revolution taking place before public opinion would shift towards favoring a nuclear deterrent for Australia.

This is an unlikely scenario in the short term, but not so remote in the medium to long term. Acting after the event however would just be too late.

In the absence of some form of threat to Australia’s security, public debate would probably be one of the most heated and passionate within Australian society. This would be reflected in the finely balanced Australian Parliament. This debate would have the potential to bring down the Government.

In the absence of bi-partisanship between the major parties on the issue, a Labor Government on current policy would firmly squash any potential nuclear program. It may not even need a change of government, a change of leader within the Liberal Party maybe enough to force the cancellation of any nuclear program.

The nuclear weapon debate is an issue politicians can use to gain power, which would prevent Australia developing nuclear weapons. That’s the dynamics of a democratic system. If France or Britain had to develop nuclear weapons from scratch today, it would almost be impossible through their democratic processes.

Even if Australia decided to go ahead with a nuclear program, tacit approval would be needed from the United States. The US has for years been hedging on this. However with the Trump view of the world (a view that will almost certainly for economic reasons outlive Trump), the US may support allies in the Asia-Pacific taking more responsibility for their own defence. The proposal by Australia to develop its own nuclear arsenal may bring big offers of concessions from the US, where a future administration may offer alternatives.

An indigenous Australian nuclear arsenal would allow Australia to be more independent in foreign policy, something that is needed to handle the changing China-US balance in the region. It would most probably bring the respect of China and free Australia from the need to unquestionably follow the US line. Iraq after all was a disaster that Australia could have avoided. Both Australian bureacrats and government see this.

France is a precedent in Europe which follows an independent foreign policy, and Israel is a precedent in the MENA, where it could be argued that the country has been able to survive in a hostile region due to the deterrents it has in place.

The writer is not arguing that the Turnbull Government has made a complete turn towards a nuclear hedging policy. The writer is arguing that the Turnbull Government understands the possibility of an independent nuclear arsenal may be an option in the near to medium future. It could be preparing the way. It’s the responsibility of defence and the public service to prepare these positions and the government of the day to consider them.

Watch this space and expect to see the concept of an Australian nuclear deterrent discussed more in the media in the near future, particularly when major events favour such a response.

An abridged version was first published in the Asia Sentinel

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The US tanks deal to Ukraine and the Sino-Russian military alliance

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Xi Jinping and Vladimir Putin, image by the Presidential Press and Information Office, the Kremlin, via Wikipedia

After the warnings of the Deputy Chairman of the Russian Security Council, “Medvedev”, of the possibility of establishing a Russian-Chinese military alliance against Washington, the most important questions and analyzes that arise in this regard revolve in their entirety around:

Will Russia implement its threats to establish that alliance?

What are the countries likely to ally with Russia to confront America?

And in the event that Russia implements its threats against the United States of America by establishing that joint military alliance with China, does this mean a weakening of American hegemony in world politics?

Then, what is the relationship of the tank deal that the United States and Germany intend to send to Ukraine with the order of that joint military alliance between China and Russia, and does China really accept a solid and joint military alliance in confronting Washington militarily?

  In order to answer these questions, we will find that there is already an existing and joint strengthening of military cooperation between the Chinese and Russian sides, through Russian President “Putin” stressing to his Chinese counterpart “Xi Jinping” the importance of geo-strategic cooperation and technical-military cooperation between the two countries in the wake of the “interaction joint maneuvers” in 2022 between the two countries, which took place in the East China Sea in December 2022, with the assertion of the commander of the Russian forces participating in the joint military exercises with China, that it comes as a response to the violent increase in the number of US forces present in the Indo-Pacific region in the American concept or the Asia-Pacific region in the Chinese and Russian concept. This means that Russia is ready to cooperate closely with Beijing, in response to the American efforts to surround China, through the establishment of American military and technological alliances to confront China, such as the American quadruple alliance with India, Japan and Australia, or through the US nuclear defense Okus alliance with Australia and Britain, or from  Through Washington’s military support for Taiwan in the face of Beijing and the increase in US arms and military equipment sales to the Taiwanese side, which arouses China’s ire.

   In recent years, China has also taken the initiative to enhance cooperation between the Chinese People’s Liberation Army and the Russian Armed Forces by conducting joint exercises and coordinated patrols in the area around Japan.  As for the Chinese army, its cooperation with the Russian army and the Russian armed forces would contribute significantly to the implementation of the military, security and defense reforms that Chinese President “Xi Jinping” seeks to achieve, which aims to transform the Chinese People’s Liberation Army into one of the largest fighting forces in the world to be comparable in strength to the US Army.

 We find that there is already existing and joint military cooperation between the Chinese and Russian parties in the field of joint military exercises, which has witnessed a clear increase in the recent period, and this cooperation in the security and defense field between China and Russia has acquired clear geopolitical connotations. In May 2022, China and Russia conducted joint sorties and air maneuvers over the Sea of ​​Japan and the East China Sea, which coincided with the summit of the leaders of the Quadruple Strategic Dialogue, known as “Quad” in Japan, which is a forum for political cooperation through which Washington seeks to turn it into a military alliance against China.  Therefore, the joint maneuvers of Moscow and Beijing came to confirm that the two countries are cooperating militarily in the face of Washington’s attempt to establish military alliances against them, on top of which is the US Aukus nuclear defense alliance with Australia and Britain in the face of China.

 Also, all the recent summits that took place between Beijing and Moscow focused, in their entirety, on Russian military cooperation with Beijing, as well as the two parties meeting to strengthen their strategic partnerships in the face of Western threats, and on their intention and desire to establish a multipolar international system, with what that means in the end. The US-dominated world order, which Washington seeks to respond to by pushing the NATO military alliance to adopt policies to besiege the Chinese and Russian countries.

 China and Russia have conducted several joint military exercises in the Chinese Shandong Peninsula, and they were mainly focused on anti-terrorism exercises, and it was agreed after that to conduct peace mission exercises annually under the auspices of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, which consists of (China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan).

 Then this was followed by several joint naval exercises that took place on a permanent basis, and it was called joint seas exercises and maneuvers (or a joint Russian-Chinese naval interaction, as the Russians called it), and it was mainly concentrated in the Yellow Sea region off the Chinese Shandong Peninsula, with the participation of many  Warships from both countries, in exercises simulating joint air defense, anti-submarine warfare, and search and rescue missions.  Since then, joint seas exercises have been held annually between the Chinese and Russian sides (except for 2020), and their content is constantly changing.  Since 2013, the geographical scope of the Russian-Chinese exercises has expanded, to include areas outside the immediate periphery of China, including Europe, and in chronological order those locations were:

  (Sea of ​​Japan in 2013, East China Sea exercises in 2014, Mediterranean and Sea of ​​Japan in 2015, South China Sea in 2016, Baltic Sea and Sea of ​​Japan in 2017, South China Sea in 2018, Yellow Sea in 2019, Sea of ​​Japan in 2021)       

 China also participated in the “Russian Vostok joint military exercises” in 2018, which were held in the Eastern Military District of Russia and about 3,200 Chinese soldiers from the Chinese People’s Liberation Army participated.  The Chinese and Russian militaries also carry out coordinated and periodic military missions in the geographical and territorial area surrounding the seas and in the airspace around Japan.  Most of the joint military exercises and missions between China and Russia take place in the eastern part of the Sea of ​​Japan, through the northern Tsugaru Strait (between Honshu and Hokkaido regions), along the Pacific coast of Japan, and then west through the Osumi Strait in southern Kagoshima Prefecture.

 The main objective of conducting such military maneuvers between China and Russia, as declared by both parties, remains to unite forces against the United States of America and its allies, especially after its strained relations with both countries.  In addition to Russia’s dispute with the United States of America and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization since the Russian annexation of Crimea in 2014.  Recently, US tensions with Russia have exacerbated, due to the latter’s invasion of Ukraine.

 Bearing in mind that Chinese President Xi Jinping did not respond directly to Russia’s desire for joint military cooperation, but merely referred to Beijing’s willingness to increase strategic cooperation with Russia.  At the same time, there are US assurances that Washington has not monitored any indications of Chinese support for Russia in its war against Ukraine, unlike the case with North Korea and Iran, which Washington has accused of providing Moscow with ammunition and drones.

  Here the message of the Russian President “Putin” to his Chinese counterpart “Xi Jinping” by expressing Russia’s desire for a military rapprochement between the two countries to confront what he called unprecedented Western pressure, with President Putin affirming the right of the two countries to preserve their positions, principles, and aspirations to build a just international order, in a Russian reference to the multipolar system, which will mark the end of American unipolarity, the Russian side assured its Chinese counterpart that military cooperation between the Chinese and Russian sides will support international peace and security.

 Here, Washington expresses its concern about such cooperation, which may cover any shortage of military supplies that Russia needs to continue its war against Ukraine. It was remarkable that Western officials ignored this time threatening China if it sought military cooperation with Russia.

  There is an official Chinese assertion through the official Chinese government media affiliated with the ruling Communist Party, that Beijing will continue to adhere to its objective and fair position on the war in Ukraine, which is based on the fact that the West caused this conflict by insisting on spreading NATO bases to countries located in the immediate vicinity from the Russian borders, which is in line with and confirms the Russian point of view, and contradicts its Western counterpart, which views the Russian-Ukrainian war as an assault by Moscow on a sovereign country.

 We will find that after the summit talks between President Xi Jinping and Putin (shortly before Russia started its invasion of Ukraine), both the Chinese and Russian sides oppose further NATO expansion, and stand against the formation of closed blocs and opposing camps in the Asia-Pacific region.  In this way, China signaled its support for Russia in its power struggle with NATO against Washington and the West.

 On the other side, the economic and military cooperation between China and Russia has also been increased, since the start of the Russian military operation against Ukraine in February 2022, despite the United States’ threat to Beijing at the beginning of the war, to work to help the Russian economy find alternatives that help it avoid the repercussions of Western sanctions,  However, it became clear that Beijing did not heed these American threats.

 Here, China and Russia succeeded in arousing Washington’s military wrath, through Moscow conducting several multilateral maneuvers with the participation of China and India at the end of 2022, in order to confirm that Washington’s attempts to militarily weaken the relationship between Moscow, New Delhi, and Beijing will not succeed.

 Hence, we can say that the relations between Russia and China have witnessed a remarkable growth in the military aspects in recent times, exceeding the limit of statements to the level of action and practical moves in the Indo-Pacific region or the Pacific and Indian oceans, as a joint Russian-Chinese response to confront the US alliances with its regional allies.  In that region, accusing the American side of seeking and targeting the strangulation of the two countries in the first place.  Especially after the series of security, political, economic and military alliances that the United States of America established against China and Russia in their regional region, led by the Aukus-Quad alliances against the interests of China and Russia mainly, coinciding with the escalation of the American provocations in the Taiwan Strait and the South China Sea, with the policy of continuous American mobilization of its allies in Europe, and the imposition of several packages of sanctions against Moscow to paralyze the Russian economy after the Ukraine war.

  Therefore, the Chinese-Russian response, on the other hand, was to strengthen their network of military and diplomatic relations in light of their tense relations with the US side and its allies, through political and economic partnerships and joint and extensive military exercises, and Moscow and Beijing’s keenness to conduct regular naval maneuvers between the two sides as threatening messages directed mainly at Washington.

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SCO in an Era of New-Regionalism

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The growth of SCO may have emerged as the most victorious Eurasian Organization but it still has a long way to go. Since the day of its inception, SCO has been struggling to address some of the organization’s major concerns such as maintaining cohesion among member states and addressing economic issues besides strengthening its institutional basis. However, it has expanded its regional profile and managed to portend in an era of New Regionalism.

The recent summit of the Eurasian Economic, Political, and Security Forum (on 15-16th September 2022) is of utmost importance considering the current serious political, and economic transformations happenings across the Eurasian Continent. This summit has marked new aspects of Regional Cooperation, and Economic Potential for SCO in the Changing International Environment.

The key takeaways of the recent summit: –

  • Inclusion of Iran as a permanent member of SCO
  • Turkey to pursue permanent membership of SCO
  • Gulf states to gain the status of SCO Dialogue Partner

Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Khamenei said, “One of our priorities today in foreign policy is preferring East to West, neighbors to remote countries”. As the world’s biggest regional organization, SCO may use its institutional capacity and political power to counter economic sanctions and assist with financial instability in countries like Iran. Also, Iran has the potential to be a ‘Hub Country’ playing a key role in East-West and North-South transportation routes. The inclusion of Iran as a permanent member of the SCO demonstrates the rise of anti-Western narratives. Iran and Russia have expanded their connections in recent decades, including non-energy links, defense collaboration, and weapons sales. Therefore, Iran’s willingness to pursue better ties with China and Russia (the SCO’s two major countries) opens up a new wave of ‘Multi-literalism’ in the Eurasian Region. The energy crisis caused by the Ukraine war can be met by Iran (which has the world’s fourth biggest oil and natural gas reserves) as Iran’s commerce with SCO member states has risen to $37 billion by 2021. Iran’s inclusion in SCO has strengthened China’s policy of “Asia people to uphold Asian security” in changing geopolitical climate. It will enhance International North-South Transport Corridor- a shifting gear in Eurasian connectivity. Besides these positive aspects, there are other prospects for Iran’s inclusion in SCO. Above all,  SCO members have to deal strictly with three evils “Terrorism, Extremism, and Separatism” where Iran has been blamed for providing nuclear support for terrorism, and cross-border violence support by the West. Hence, Iran may face staunch opposition from the west to perform dexterously in the region. Although SCO has accomplished much in terms of multilateral growth, it does not appear to be capable of taking strong moves in the face of US-Iran antagonism, given the organization’s structure, powers, and aims. Still, SCO does accrue economic and geopolitical benefits for Iran, allowing it to maintain its position in the Middle East.

Turkey’s president Tayyip Erdogan said, “Our relations with these countries will be moved to a much better position with this step. Of course [membership], that’s the target”.

Turkey, a NATO member since 1952, indicates a distant possibility of becoming a permanent SCO member. However, its relations with the United States will determine its standing in the SCO. The recent SCO summit has shown Turkey’s bid to get permanent membership of SCO. which might be because Turkey has grown closer to Moscow, both politically and commercially, in recent years, including acquiring an S-400 defense system. Ankara has also become economically dependent on Moscow to avoid a balance-of-payments catastrophe before the 2023 elections. However, in the SCO, Turkey will serve as an “Energy Hub” connecting Caspian and Central Asian producers with European customers.

China, SCO major power, is open to Turkey’s accession besides Turkey’s standing on the Uyghur issue (that might strain the future of China-Turkey relations). On the Syrian upheaval, clashes between Turkey and two SCO leading states Russia and China are possible. Turkey opposes Assad’s dictatorship (and even supports humanitarian action), whilst Russia and China encourage non-interference. Membership in the SCO may enhance Islamist imperatives in Turkish internal politics, affecting its path to democracy. Turkey in SCO will have an influence on India’s, Pakistan’s, and Iran’s policies in Central Asia. Furthermore, Turkey has the second biggest military force among NATO countries, after the United States, with around 445,000 troops. Turkey is home to five NATO headquarters in Izmir, as well as a US military-led airport. It also acts as an American security policy in the Middle East and the Balkans due to its key geographical position. Consequently, Turkey’s departure does not appear to be a possibility so far. In “The Clash of Civilizations, and the Remaking of the World Order,” Samuel Huntington described Turkey as a “torn country” because “its leaders typically wish to pursue a bandwagon strategy and to make their country a member of the West, but the country’s history, culture, and traditions are non-western.” All of this would impede the SCO’s ability to achieve its fundamental aims, which have already been hampered by tensions among SCO member nations

For Gulf nations, the SCO has increased its need considering China as the global economic powerhouse, Russia as the world’s second-biggest producer of natural gas, and Central Asian states with virtually unexplored oil and natural gas potential. Gulf States analyst, Ali Ahmad said “All of the countries involved do see china as a rising power and country that is potentially going to have a rising power in the region, and elsewhere” The SCO’s recent success in the Arab world is due to China’s expanding economic impact in the area. According to the United Nations COMTRADE database on international commerce, China’s exports to Saudi Arabia are over US$30.32 billion. The safe access to its essential energy resources and marine trade routes, in addition to major seaports like Dubai, through which 60% of its traffic heading for Europe and East Africa flows, is a crucial driver of China’s interest in the Gulf.

Also, US policy toward Gulf states, particularly after 9/11, has made these countries concerned for their future.  The many Gulf States now wish to price some oil contracts in non-dollar-dominant countries. Where SCO, states reiterated their commitment to promoting national currencies in bilateral commerce in a recent summit, as China and Russia have boosted trading in rubles and renminbi since 2014. There has been a GCC-China free trade deal; if this agreement comes to fruition, it will undoubtedly benefit tarns-regional connectivity. Hence, Gulf states in SCO will catalyze Eurasian connectivity.

However, Institutional, infrastructural, and trade issues remain unresolved for SCO. Another critical question is SCO’s expansion: should it be a regional or global organization? Is it to be a global future, as Russia wants, or a regional future, as China desires? Concrete policies and closer coordination are required, depending on the extent to which domestic and member state impacts converge, as well as their significance in addressing future security and economic concerns for the furtherance of SCO.

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India’s Naval Modernization efforts: Implication for Regional Stability

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In recent years, India has been undertaking significant efforts to modernize its navy in order to enhance its capabilities and protect its economic interests in the Indian Ocean region. This naval modernization has been reflected in the acquisition of new ships, submarines, and aircraft, as well as the development of new base and port facilities. However, these efforts have not only implications for India but also for the regional stability in general and for Pakistan in particular. The increasing naval capabilities of India have a direct implication on the balance of power in the Indian Ocean region which could lead to an arms race and potential conflicts with other countries in the region. India’s increasing naval presence in the region could lead to increased patrols and surveillance which could have negative impact on the security of the region. In this editorial, we will examine the implications of India’s naval modernization efforts on regional stability and explore how these developments may impact Pakistan and other countries in the Indian Ocean region.

How could India’s naval modernization efforts impact South Asia’s regional stability?

However, it is important to note that India’s Naval modernizations efforts could also be seen as a response to the growing naval capabilities of other regional actors, such as China and Pakistan. Furthermore, India’s navy modernization efforts could also contribute to regional stability by providing a stronger deterrent against potential adversaries and by fostering cooperation with other countries in the region through joint exercises and other initiatives.

It is also important to consider the fact that India’s modernization efforts are also driven by its growing economic and strategic interests in the Indian Ocean region, which is becoming increasingly important for global trade and energy security. These interests may lead to India to play a more active role in maintaining security and stability in the region.

It is also worth noting that India’s modernization efforts have been met with concerns from other countries in the region, particularly Pakistan, which views them as a potential threat to its own security. This has the potential to exacerbate existing tensions between the two countries.

India’s naval modernization efforts have the potential to impact regional stability in South Asia in several ways.

First, India’s expanding naval capabilities, including the acquisition of new ships, nuclear powered submarines, and aircraft carriers, new and advanced attack helicopter, rejuvenating its third eye through employment of spy satellites could potentially shift the balance of power in the region in its favor, which could fuel military tensions with neighboring countries such as Pakistan. India’s ambitious efforts could lead to an arms race in the region as other countries may follow suit and need to enhance their naval capabilities to counterbalance India’s expanding naval muscles, which could be destabilizing.

Second, India’s increased naval presence in the region could lead to increased patrols and surveillance in the Indian Ocean, which could lead to potential conflicts with other countries in South Asia, particularly Pakistan. It could affect the maritime security of South Asia.

Third, India’s naval modernization efforts may lead to an increase in military spending by other countries in the region, which could divert resources away from economic development and potentially increase income inequality, which could be destabilizing.

Fourth, India’s naval modernization could also have economic implications for the region, as India’s increased naval power may give it more influence over trade routes and access to resources in the Indian Ocean, which could have negative economic consequences for neighboring countries such as Pakistan.

Overall, India’s naval modernization efforts have the potential to impact regional stability in South Asia, and it will be paramount to closely monitor these developments and their implications for the countries in the region.

 According to Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), India is among the top five military spenders in the world. India’s military spending has been increasing in recent years, driven by a variety of factors, including border disputes with neighboring states in region, and the growing naval capabilities of China. According to SIPRI data, India’s military spending in 2020 was $71.1 billion USD, representing an increase of around 3.9% from the previous year. The Indian Navy is being modernized and India has also been investing on procuring new naval vessels, submarines, aircrafts, weapons systems and developing new naval bases and infrastructure.

How Indian Naval Modernization efforts are affecting Pakistan’s Security?

India’s ongoing efforts to modernize its navy have implications for Pakistan. As Pakistan views these efforts as a potential threat to its own security. The acquisition of advanced weapons systems and abovementioned factors as well as the expansion of its naval bases and infrastructure, could potentially alter the balance of power in the region. While Pakistan sees this as a direct challenge toward maintaining regional balance with the help of garnering it naval capabilities.

Pakistan’s concerns stem from the fact that India’s navy modernization efforts are also driven by its growing economic and strategic interests in the Indian Ocean region, which is becoming increasingly important for global trade and energy security. These interests may lead Pakistan to play a more active role in maintaining security and stability in the region, which could potentially be at the expense of India’s said military interests in Indian Ocean Region (IOR).

It is worth noting that Pakistan is trying to balance in its navy to maintain the strategic balance of the region in recent years, with the acquisition of new submarines, frigates and other naval assets. This step by Pakistan has been seen as a strategic balancer in the region and response in line with India’s naval modernization aims and has the potential to further promote the peace and stability in Indian Ocean Region.

Time for World Powers to Intervene:

India’s ongoing efforts to modernize its navy have the potential to impact regional stability in South Asia, and as such, the role of world powers in this regard is an important consideration.

One potential role for world powers is to encourage dialogue and cooperation between India and other regional actors, particularly Pakistan, to address concerns and to work towards maintaining regional stability. This could involve facilitating direct talks and negotiations, as well as encouraging confidence-building measures such as joint military exercises and other initiatives.

Another important role for world powers is to support the development of regional institutions and mechanisms for addressing security challenges. This could include supporting the development of a regional security architecture, such as a South Asian security dialogue or forum, which would provide a platform for countries in the region to discuss and address security concerns.

It is pertinent to mention that India’s modernization efforts are also driven by its growing economic and strategic interests in the Indian Ocean region, which is becoming increasingly important for global trade and energy security. World powers could play a role in supporting and encouraging India’s efforts to secure its economic and strategic interests in the region.

Furthermore, world powers could also play a role in encouraging transparency and predictability in the military activities of regional actors, particularly in the Indian Ocean region, through mechanisms such as confidence-building measures and arms control agreements.

In conclusion, India’s naval modernization efforts have the potential to impact regional stability in South Asia, but the effects will likely be complex and multifaceted. Further research and analysis would be necessary to fully understand the implications of these efforts. India’s modernizing its naval forces have serious implications for Pakistan could be a potential threat to its security. It is important for both countries to engage in dialogue and cooperation to address these concerns, and to work towards maintaining regional stability.

In the end, these efforts in South Asia have the potential to impact regional stability, and world powers have an important role to play in encouraging dialogue and cooperation, supporting regional institutions and mechanisms, and encouraging transparency and predictability in the military activities of regional actors.

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