Home / News / World /  India, AUKUS explore tech cooperation possibilities

New Delhi: India and the AUKUS partnership of Australia, UK and US are in informal exploratory conversations on emerging technologies like artificial intelligence, electronic warfare and cyber technologies, people aware of the matter said. The AUKUS partnership, unveiled in 2021, is a tri-nation military grouping designed to deter China, most noted for its cooperation on nuclear-powered submarines.

The AUKUS nations are keen to cooperate with India on emerging technologies given New delhi’s strong scientific research and development capacity, the people cited above said on condition of anonymity. While Indian authorities have indicated initial interest, no formal dialogue has taken place.

The AUKUS partnership, which focuses on transferring and jointly developing vital defence and emerging technologies, has two pillars. The first aims to transfer highly sensitive nuclear submarine technology from the US and UK to Australia. The other focuses on advanced capabilities like emerging defence technologies, artificial intelligence and quantum computing. The exploratory conversations have focused on India-AUKUS cooperation under Pillar 2.

While New Delhi has not taken a declared position on the AUKUS partnership, it voted against an attempt by Russia and China to derail the AUKUS partnership at the International Atomic Energy Association last year. Beijing and Moscow attempted to convince the world that the transfer of nuclear technology to Australia as part of Pillar 1 would violate nuclear non-proliferation treaty commitments. India’s support helped block this attempt, which may also have opened the door to the possibility of cooperation with AUKUS.

Just this week, US President Joe Biden, Australian PM Anthony Albanese and UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak jointly announced an expansive multi-stage roadmap to help Australia acquire and operate highly valuable nuclear-powered submarines.

In the immediate future, Australian defence personnel will begin to embed in US and UK defence establishments to acquire the know-how to operate nuclear-powered submarines. However, Australia will only receive its first nuclear-powered submarines in the early 2030s and will roll out its first indigenously built nuclear-powered submarines in the early 2040s. The plan is expected to boost the military ability of the US and its partners to check China’s military ambitions in the Indo-Pacific.

Formal cooperation with AUKUS in the future may be a significant symbolic step for Indian foreign policy, given the grouping’s image as a muscular deterrent to Chinese military ambitions in the Indo-Pacific.

“We have already been partnering with the US, Australia and the UK in fields like technology. We are also partners with these countries through the Quad and the Malabar exercises. This development is really just carrying forward that cooperation," said Rajesh Rajagopalan, a professor of international politics at Jawaharlal Nehru University. For that reason, he doesn’t see this development upsetting traditional Indian security partners like Russia.

“Obviously, Russia will not like it. But Moscow also knows that India is determined to do what is necessary to ensure that there is balance in the region," he added. “Russia will continue to complain about it. We will do what we can to cooperate with Russia in other fields, but I don’t think we’re going to let this get in the way of technology cooperation with the West," Rajagopalan said.

However, not all are convinced that technology cooperation with AUKUS will bring much benefit to India. “India has always opposed participation in any formal military alliance. So, AUKUS hardly seems the right framework for the US and India to work jointly on advanced technologies," said Brahma Chellaney, a Professor of Strategic Studies at New Delhi’s Centre for Policy Research.

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