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Welcome back to the CIA agent 978.
Here are all the places you'll need to visit undercover.
First up, read the White House's report on the Indo-Pacific region and write a note on its strategy.
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You've made it to Sydney, Australia. Welcome to the Australian Institute of Foreign Affairs.
AUKUS reshapes the strategic landscape of the Indo-Pacific
A major submarine deal underscores how the new theatre for great-power competition is maritime
Late last year China laid out a set of 14 grievances that was striking in its scope, animosity and hypocrisy. It included Australia passing a law against foreign interference in domestic politics, blaming China for cyber-attacks and suggesting that Chinese journalists might be state agents. Australian lobster, wine, barley, coal, sugar and timber suddenly faced an unofficial Chinese trade embargo and piled up unsold. The case for viewing China as a long-term challenge to national interests was rested.
One result of this is a strong possibility that in the 2030s there will be new boats plying the old sandalwood routes north from Perth: a fleet of at least eight Australian nuclear submarines based on either America’s Virginia class or Britain’s Astute class, built with technology from some combination of the two countries’ defence contractors. These submarines are the most dramatic component of an agreement between America, Australia and Britain called aukus which the three nations announced on September 15th. Negotiated in the strictest of secrecy over a period of months, it envisages a wide range of diplomatic and technological collaboration, from cyber-security to artificial intelligence. But given that the three countries already collaborate closely in many areas—they make up, with Canada and New Zealand, the “Five Eyes” intelligence-sharing pact—it is the novelty of Australia’s nuclear submarines that has garnered the most attention. And quite rightly.
As an arms deal it is big; at least eight nuclear submarines suggests a contract value in the tens of billions of dollars. As a strategic shift it is bigger. The pact is America’s most dramatic and determined move yet to counter what it and others in the Indo-Pacific region see as a growing threat from China. As Stephen Walt of Harvard University writes, “it is a move designed to discourage or thwart any future Chinese bid for regional hegemony.”
The greatest immediate outrage, though, came not from China but from the opposite end of Eurasia. Although President Joe Biden stressed that aukus was about “investing in our greatest source of strength—our alliances”, America’s oldest ally and Britain’s physically closest one, France, had been stabbed in the back, as Jean-Yves Le Drian, its foreign minister, put it.
France, the European Union’s leading military power, will see its suspicion that the English-speaking allies are never really to be trusted as vindicated. The arguments for strategic autonomy engendered by that suspicion will now be made again, and perhaps acted on, both with respect to policy in the Indo-Pacific—where France has numerous territories, nearly 2m citizens and 7,000 troops—and elsewhere. Placating the French will in part be a matter of accommodating those arguments. In a phone call on September 22nd during which Mr Biden and Mr Macron “agreed that the situation would have benefited from open consultations among allies”, America recognised “the importance of a stronger and more capable European defence, that contributes positively to transatlantic and global security and is complementary to nato”. France’s ambassador will return to Washington next week, but the lessons it has drawn will linger.
And as one door closes another opens. France and India joined again in a three-day naval exercise earlier this year; Mr Macron and Narendra Modi, India’s prime minister, spoke this week. India will be delighted by the focused attention of a big arms supplier which is sympathetic to its notion of non-alignment. It would love some help with nuclear submarines, whether from France or AUKUS.
India faces "very significant challenges", especially from China, says White House as it releases Indo-Pacific strategy
India faces "very significant challenges", in particular from China and its behaviour in the Line of Actual Control, the White House has said, as it unveiled the Biden administration's first region-specific report on the strategic Indo-Pacific.
"We recognise that India is a like-minded partner and leader in South Asia and the Indian Ocean, active in and connected to Southeast Asia, a driving force of the Quad and other regional fora, and an engine for regional growth and development," the White House statement added.
At a White House background briefing, a senior administration official, on condition of anonymity, pointed out that India was facing "significant challenges".
India, the senior official said, is in a very different place, in many ways than Australia and other countries.
"But India faces very significant challenges. China's behaviour on the Line of Actual Control has had a galvanising impact on India. From our standpoint, we see tremendous opportunities in working with another democracy - with a country that has a maritime tradition that understands the importance of the global commons - to advance critical issues in the region,” the senior administration official said.
The border standoff between India and China in eastern Ladakh erupted on May 5, 2020, following a violent clash in the Pangong lake area and both sides gradually enhanced their deployment by rushing in tens of thousands of soldiers as well as heavy weaponry. (...)
The strategic report was released on a day when a Quad Ministerial was held in Melbourne, Australia where the foreign ministers from Australia, India, Japan and the US on Friday expressed concerns over the malign Chinese role in the region.
China, the strategic report said, is combining its economic, diplomatic, military, and technological might as it pursues a sphere of influence in the Indo-Pacific and seeks to become the world's most influential power.
The Chinese coercion and aggression spans the globe, but it is most acute in the Indo-Pacific, it said.
From the economic coercion of Australia to the conflict along the Line of Actual Control with India to the growing pressure on Taiwan and bullying of neighbours in the East and South China Seas, our allies and partners in the region bear much of the cost of the People's Republic of China's (PRC) harmful behaviour.
In the process, China is also undermining human rights and international law, freedom of navigation, as well as other principles that have brought stability and prosperity to the Indo-Pacific, the strategy said. (...)
"With regard to India, we very explicitly highlight the importance of - the importance of what the last four administrations have all played a very important role in advancing, which is the much greater US engagement, much improved US relations with and much closer US partnership with India,” the official said.
“Obviously, India's role in the QUAD I think is a very significant element of that, including the ability to speak frankly, about issues in the region, to work together to deliver essentially public goods that address the challenges in the region, and to enhance ways in which we can coordinate,” the official said.