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In this March, 2023 file photo, U.S. President Joe Biden, Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak deliver remarks on the AUKUS partnership, after a trilateral meeting, at Naval Base Point Loma in San Diego, Calif.LEAH MILLIS/Reuters

The door should be opened for Canada to join the non-nuclear component of AUKUS, a security pact between Australia, Britain and the United States that was struck to counter China’s rising military might in the Indo-Pacific region, three former British and Australian prime ministers say.

An article by the London-based think tank the Legatum Institute says Canada’s vast critical mineral resources, advanced technological sectors, particularly artificial intelligence and quantum computing, and its integration with the U.S. significantly complement AUKUS objectives of a technology-sharing military alliance.

“It is time now to go further and to bring in other countries to this partnership – and the most obvious next candidate must be Canada. Canada is not just a linchpin of the Commonwealth and the G7. For more than a century, Canadians have fought – often heroically – for freedom,” former British prime minister Boris Johnson is quoted as saying. “No country better epitomizes the values that make AUKUS possible – and Canada has a huge amount to offer.”

Mr. Johnson’s successor Liz Truss and former Australian prime minister Tony Abbott also added their endorsement to the idea of Canada joining the AUKUS partnership.

“Canada is a member of the G7 group of major economies, with ample capacity to boost its own military strength and to contribute to that of others through its manufacturing and technological strengths and endowment with strategic minerals,” Mr. Abbott said, while Ms. Truss added: “Bringing Canada into the AUKUS family would be a timely strategic move to strengthen the West’s collective defences.”

The Globe reported last year that Ottawa is seeking to participate in the second pillar of the AUKUS agreement but not the acquisition of nuclear submarines. The second pillar of the pact provides for information-sharing and close co-operation on accelerating development of cutting-edge technologies, including undersea defence capabilities, AI, quantum technology and hypersonic warfare.

“‘Pillar II,’ as it’s called, is about developing a range of advanced capabilities, to share technology and increase the interoperability of our armed forces. Deeper integration of science, tech, and industrial capacity will deliver the fastest and most exciting results, with some specific targets already in sight, such as hypersonic missiles and underwater drones,” Mr. Johnson said.

Canada was conspicuously absent when AUKUS was first announced in September, 2021. The three member countries are among this country’s closest allies, and like Canada they are members of the Five Eyes intelligence-sharing partnership. National-security experts feared Canada, a laggard on defence spending, was being excluded from a new “Three Eyes” group.

The Legatum Institute says Canada would greatly benefit from joining what would be the world’s most advanced partnership on defence technology, while AUKUS would gain access to large supplies of Canadian critical minerals for modern economies and militaries.

“Enhancing collaboration on these critical minerals would ensure greater resilience of AUKUS supply chains and reduce dependence on non-allied sources, notably China. Securing critical minerals supply chains should be a priority for AUKUS members,” according to the article, written by Legatum Institute senior researcher Alexander Gray and senior adviser Doug Stokes, a professor of international security and strategy at the University of Exeter.

The authors recommend introducing tariff- and quota-free trade in critical minerals among all members of the agreement. They also proposed Canada and the three AUKUS members legislate the free flow of defence equipment and technology among members of this new pact.

University of Ottawa professor Thomas Juneau said Canada must assertively make the case to allies for admission, by demonstrating what it can contribute. “We need to continue asking, in private and in public, to be involved in those working groups – making a case as opposed to just saying, ‘Please invite us because we’re nice.’ “

The AUKUS partnership was initially framed as an effort to deepen diplomatic, security and defence co-operation in the Indo-Pacific region. Under it, the U.S. is sharing nuclear-propulsion technology with Australia, as it has with Britain for more than half a century. New submarines will be built for the British and Australians using a combination of British submarine design and U.S. technology.

After the pact was announced, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau played down Canada’s exclusion. “This is a deal for nuclear submarines, which Canada is not currently or any time soon in the market for,” he told reporters.

China, which has an estimated 12 nuclear-powered submarines, has condemned AUKUS as a threat to peace in the Indo-Pacific.

In March, New Zealand’s government, which is a member of the Five Eyes intelligence-sharing alliance with the U.S., Britain, Canada and Australia, said it is discussing joining the non-nuclear part of the AUKUS arrangement.

The Legatum Institute on Tuesday said that former prime minister Stephen Harper later added his own support for Canada joining AUKUS. They circulated a quote from Mr. Harper saying: “In today’s uncertain world it is more important than ever that historic allies work together to strengthen the West’s collective defence capabilities. I welcome the Legatum Institute’s paper calling for Canadian accession to AUKUS Pillar II and hope it is something that the governments of Canada and AUKUS will work together to achieve.”

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