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<strong>Foreign Policy Changes in the UK and their Effects on Southeast Asia</strong>

Following Liz Truss' resignation on October 25, 2022, Rishi Sunak was elected as the leader of the United Kingdom’s Conservative Party and the Prime Minister. Under the premiership of Rishi Sunak, according to the 2023 refresh version of the 2021 integrated review of security, defence, development, and foreign policy, the UK will increase its military spending by £5 billion (with £3 billion committed to the nuclear enterprise AUKUS and £2 billion targeted at boosting the UK's munition stockpiles); work with like-minded partners to achieve the world they seek; and sceptically pose China as the epoch-defining challenge to global politicisation. The logical response is that it is what the nations do to survive in international politics and protect their national interests, but it still begs the question of why, at the urging of a select few culturally homogeneous governments, the rest of the states are accused of being significant offenders. In addition, should the world, especially China, be concerned about the cultural symmetry between the Prime Minister of the UK and the people of India? The role of Prime Minister Rishi Sunak is essential in determining the foreign policy of the UK and its position on international issues such as security, defence, development, and foreign policy as the head of state. The Prime Minister has to closely collaborate with his administration and other nations that share their values in order to accomplish their common objectives, which include fending off the perceived threat that China poses. Managing the UK's relationships with other nations, conducting diplomacy, and directing the nation's reaction to international crises all fall under the purview of the Prime Minister. Overall, the UK Prime Minister has a key role in the nation's foreign policy, and their choices and deeds have a big impact on the UK's relations with other nations and its reputation in the international community. A substantial divergence from the UK's prior strategy towards China, which was defined by an emphasis on economic and commercial relations, can be seen in the policy pivot towards competing with China. This change is in line with the UK's overarching strategy, which prioritizes security and defence, while uniting it with other like-minded nations in reaction to what it sees as a rising threat from China. Although the UK's strategy has changed to resist China's influence, it is still in the early stages of development, and it is unclear how far the UK will go in terms of its interaction with other nations to curb China's influence. In recent years, notably since the 2020 border conflict in Ladakh, India has adopted a considerably more confrontational approach toward its neighbour, China. To counter China's expanding influence in the region, India has raised military spending, participated in joint military drills with other like-minded nations, and taken a number of other measures. Indo-China ties may be impacted by the UK's assistance to India in its fight against China, but this would depend on the precise measures the UK takes and the scope of its involvement in the region. Given the complex nature of the relationship between China and India, which is characterized by a combination of collaboration and rivalry, any outside influence could be viewed with mistrust or as meddling in the region. Being the youngest prime minister appointed since 1812 and the first person of colour to hold the position, Sunak’s adherence to Hinduism and his Indian descent may culturally influence his foreign policy decisions in the Southeast Asian region. It is possible that his Hindu heritage may indirectly affect UK-India ties, and he may be more sensitive to India's opinions and concerns. The UK's foreign policy has not altered overnight; rather, it has evolved steadily over time. In Clash of Civilizations, Samuel Huntington made the prediction that global politics would change in the ensuing years. He anticipated that nations' long-standing rivalry would soon resurface, in an article published in the summer of 1993 by the Council on Foreign Relations. Disputes would start to occur, but they would not be largely motivated by ideologies or economic factors; instead, culture would be the driving factor. Furthermore, Rishi Sunak's role is crucial in guiding these policies' execution and ensuring that they are in line with the UK's strategic objectives, particularly in light of the country's increased military spending and emphasis on national security. To increase support for these policies and assure the public that they are essential for the nation's security and prosperity, the Prime Minister also needs to engage in communication with the people. With that said, fostering regional peace and thwarting shared dangers like terrorism and piracy are in the mutual interests of India and the UK. It may not have a big effect on India-China ties if the UK is regarded as supporting India in a way that advances these objectives. Nevertheless, if the UK's participation is interpreted as posing a danger to China's interests, it may potentially escalate hostilities between India and China. On the other hand, it demonstrates the premise of Samuel Huntington's clash of civilizations theory, according to which the UK Prime Minister's interest in the region, which is linked with that of India, can cause significant changes in the policy stance of regional countries.