‘China’s increasing international assertiveness can be seen as potentially the most significant geopolitical shift in the 2020s’

The UK has released a new Integrated Review of Defence, Security and Foreign Policy which outlines its Indo-Pacific strategy and approach to China, among other things. Minister of State for Defence Jeremy Quin tells Rajat Pandit about it:

UK’s Integrated Review-2021 says the country will establish a “greater and more persistent presence than any European country” in the Indo-Pacific. Could you elaborate?

We recognise the importance of the Indo-Pacific region which is expected to account for over 40% of global GDP by 2030. India is a key strategic partner in the region and we will be looking to work with India to defend our shared democratic values and tackle emerging threats, including those of cyber and maritime security.

Later this year, one of our new aircraft carriers, HMS Queen Elizabeth, will lead a British and allied task group on one of our most ambitious deployments for two decades, through the Indian Ocean as part of the Carrier Strike Group. It will also highlight how integration and interoperability with allies will be at the heart of the UK’s vision, as set out in the Integrated Review. This is not a one off and it is very much our intention to forward deploy an Offshore Patrol Vessel and a Littoral Response Group as part of our commitment to maritime security in the region.

How will you step up strategic-military cooperation with India in the Indo-Pacific?

We hope to establish a maritime partnership with India to support our mutual security objectives in the Indian Ocean. This will be underpinned by enhanced collaboration with industry, defence education and a continuation of our joint military exercises to improve interoperability.

We also look forward to increasing our industrial collaboration with India, taking great advantage of the MoU signed in 2019.

The US has declared China to be its primary threat while UK’s review says China poses a “systemic challenge” and Russia the “most acute threat” to its security. Can you explain?

The implications of the rising power of China is by far the most significant geopolitical factor in the world today. As the Integrated Review makes clear, we will protect our values, people and global interests.

The UK ultimately wants a mature, positive relationship with China which is based on mutual respect and trust, while maintaining our ability to cooperate in tackling global challenges, such as climate change, and the mutual benefits of our economic relationship.

The security of the Euro-Atlantic will always remain a priority for the UK and the Integrated Review will enhance our ability to counter the threats posed by Russia and other regressive adversaries. The UK will defend and deter threats that abuse the international rules based system; any such activity is carefully calibrated to demonstrate our resolve to respond robustly to any threats across a wide spectrum and protect our people and way of life.

How does the UK see China’s growing belligerence in the Indo-Pacific and India’s continuing military confrontation with it in Ladakh?

Our approach to the Indo-Pacific region will take regional dynamics into account, including that of our partners’ and allies’ investment in the region. China’s increasing international assertiveness and scale can be seen as potentially the most significant geopolitical shift in the 2020s, but continued cooperation is vital in tackling the most important international challenges of this generation, from climate change to biodiversity.

We will strengthen our regional defence cooperation in the Indo-Pacific in order to mitigate growing threats to security, build resilience and capacity, tackle shared security challenges and uphold freedom of navigation and international law.

Regarding the confrontation with China in eastern Ladakh, we encourage both sides to maintain dialogue. We continue to monitor the situation closely.

What is the rationale behind the UK increasing its nuclear warhead stockpile for the first time after the end of the Cold War?

As threats continue to change, the UK must ensure that its independent nuclear deterrent remains credible and effective. In recognition of the evolving security environment and as outlined in the Integrated Review, our intent is to increase the limit of our overall nuclear weapon stockpile to no more than 260 warheads. This is a ceiling, not a target.

While we continue to possess a nuclear deterrent, the UK remains committed to multilateral disarmament and our shared long-term goal of a world without nuclear weapons.

The review says Britain can retaliate with nuclear weapons even against destructive cyberattacks or other ‘emerging technologies’.

We would consider using our nuclear weapons only in extreme circumstances of self-defence, including the defence of our Nato Allies. We continue to give the assurance that we will not use, or threaten to use, nuclear weapons against any non-nuclear weapon state party to the NPT, excluding any state in material breach of those non-proliferation obligations.

Within the Integrated Review we detail some of the possible areas that might cause the UK to review this assurance in the future. This reflects our approach to being open and transparent.



Views expressed above are the author’s own.


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