The UK House of Commons Defense Committee published a report condemning the country’s Indo-Pacific strategy on 24 October.
In 2021, the British government pledged to engage more deeply in the Indo-Pacific – an area it recognizes as a “global center of strategic activity”. Britain has begun to strengthen its ties with countries that subscribe to a free and open Indo-Pacific region, which has become at the center of controversy with China’s aggressive military posture and North Korea’s provocative nuclear missile threats.
Seven months ago, at Built-in review refreshUK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said the UK has fulfilled its ambition of a greater presence in the Indo-Pacific.
The government suggested it had achieved the tilt, “largely through non-military means – such as diplomacy, trade, development, technology exchange and engagement with regional organizations – accompanied by a modest initial increase in our regional defense presence.” .
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Despite these efforts, the Defense Committee does not share the same sentiment. On the contrary, their findings show
“With only a modest presence compared to allies, little to no combat power in the region and little tactical activity, the UK’s defense tilt in the Indo-Pacific is far from being achieved.”
Building the UK’s regional presence
The UK has responded to escalating tensions in the Indo-Pacific by increasing military deployments to the region, such as the Littoral Response Group (LRG).
From 2022, the offshore patrol vessel HMS Spey quickly delivered critical humanitarian aid to Tonga in January 2022, following an underwater volcanic eruption and tsunami.
In addition, its sister ship, HMS Tamarconducted patrols to ensure the enforcement of United Nations sanctions against North Korea, thus contributing to the rules-based international order.
According to the UK MoD, the development of the LRG “will build on the achievements of the Carrier Strike Group [sent to the region in 2021, but has since returned] demonstrating the UK’s continued interest and presence in the region.”
The Defense Committee compares this form of presence with that of the US and France.
“The UK’s regional military presence in the Indo-Pacific remains limited and the strategy it contributes to is unclear.
“This contrasts with both the US – a global and Pacific power – and France – a more comparable player to the UK in terms of geography, scale and military capability.
“Without a larger permanent presence, it is unlikely that the UK will be able to make a meaningful contribution to allied efforts in the event of a conflict in the region.
“To achieve this, the government must choose whether to increase resources in the region or rebalance current resources to the Indo-Pacific.”
Assessment of priority commitment in the area
The the last British military venture to the region came last week when the UK Armed Forces took part in a three-week exercise in Malaysia, where these services operated jointly with Malaysia, Singapore, Australia and New Zealand.
While this demonstration of military interoperability appears to represent a step in the right direction – largely in line with the government’s admiring but ambiguous rhetoric – Britain already has a relatively strong partnership with these four Indo-Pacific nations.
While it is useful for the UK to highlight its relations with these nations, the Defense Committee suggests that the UK’s relations with other countries such as Japan and India are particularly strategic, and little has been achieved here.
“As Japan strengthens its own defense posture,” whose GlobalData intelligence projects will grow to $85.9 billion by 2028, “the UK should build on these valuable commitments to continue to strengthen its defense UK cooperation and remain steadfast allies in the pursuit of a free and open Indo-Pacific region,” the Defense Committee argues.
“The UK should design a program of joint exercises with the Japanese Armed Forces and continue cooperation on science and technology programs as part of the Hiroshima Agreement.”
Similarly, the Commission adds that the UK should make progress with India to encourage the subcontinent’s disengagement from Russia.
“The Government should work to establish the UK as a leading defense partner in India through greater government-to-government coordination and creating strategic industrial partnerships to deliver greater opportunities for the UK defense industry. This should include supporting India’s efforts to reduce its dependence on Russian military equipment.”
Read the original at Defence247.gr