India-Pakistan ties may slide further: U.S. intelligence

‘Easing of tension depends on reduction in terror attacks’

May 12, 2017 10:16 pm | Updated 10:38 pm IST - Washington

Daniel Coats

Daniel Coats

The relations between India and Pakistan is likely to deteriorate further in 2017 and the easing of tension will depend on “a sharp and sustained reduction of cross-border attacks by terrorist groups based in Pakistan and progress in the Pathankot investigation,” according to a U.S. intelligence assessment of the security situation in the region.

Daniel R. Coats, Director of National Intelligence, told the U.S. Senate intelligence committee during a hearing on worldwide threat assessment that New Delhi’s growing intolerance to Islamabad’s “failure to curb support to anti-India militants” led to a deterioration in bilateral ties in 2016 and this could worsen in the current year.

Two major terrorist attacks in 2016 by militants crossing into India from Pakistan led to the slide in ties, and the “perceived lack of progress in Pakistan’s investigations into the January 2016 Pathankot cross-border attack” compounded it, according to the American assessment. “Increasing numbers of fire-fights along the Line of Control, including the use of artillery and mortars, might exacerbate the risk of unintended escalation between these nuclear-armed neighbours,” he said.

The assessment of the global security situation under the Donald Trump administration echoes a concern that dominated the previous Obama administration’s south Asia policy — the risk of Islamist terrorists laying their hand on Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal. “Pakistan’s pursuit of tactical nuclear weapons potentially lowers the threshold for their use. Early deployment during a crisis of smaller, more mobile nuclear weapons would increase the amount of time that systems would be outside the relative security of a storage site, increasing the risk that a coordinated attack by non-state actors might succeed in capturing a complete nuclear weapons,” Mr. Coats told the committee.

India’s military doctrine of cold start that aims to launch low intensity operation into Pakistan, and Pakistan’s declared willingness to respond with tactical nuclear weapons have been under scrutiny of American security strategists for a while. Mr. Obama made a mention of it at his address to the Nuclear Security Summit last year. Officials of the Trump administration have inherited that view of South Asia.

Pakistan-based terrorist groups will present a sustained threat to U.S. interests in the region and continue to plan and conduct attacks in India and Afghanistan, the official told lawmakers. “The threat to the United States and the West from Pakistani-based terrorist groups will be persistent but diffuse. Plotting against the U.S. homeland will be conducted on a more opportunistic basis or driven by individual members within these groups,” he said. Assessing that Pakistan will be able to manage its internal security, the official said anti-Pakistan groups will probably focus more on soft targets. “The emerging China Pakistan Economic Corridor will probably offer militants and terrorists additional targets,” he said.

Terror supporters

Meanwhile, the U.S. Department of Treasury blacklisted three persons and an organisation based in Pakistan for supporting terrorists.

A statement by the department said Hayat Ullah Ghulam Muhammad (Haji Hayatullah), Ali Muhammad Abu Turab (Abu Turab), Inayat ur Rahman, and a purported charity managed by Inayat ur Rahman, the Welfare and Development Organization of Jamaat-ud-Dawah for Qur'an and Sunnah, were supporting the Taliban, al-Qaeda, Lashkar-e-Tayyiba (LT), the Islamic State, and ISIS – Khorasan.

“These sanctions seek to disrupt the financial support networks of terrorists based in Pakistan who have provided support to the Taliban, al-Qaeda, ISIS, and LT for recruitment and funding of suicide bombers and other violent insurgent operations,” said the department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control Director John E. Smith.

“The United States continues to aggressively target extremists in Pakistan and the surrounding region, including charities and other front groups used as vehicles to facilitate illicit terrorist activities.”

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