The American intelligence community has told lawmakers that it apprehends increased tension between India and Pakistan and India and China with the possibility of a conflict between them.
It also noted that under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, India is more likely than in the past to respond with military force to “perceived or real” provocations from Pakistan.
This evaluation on March 8 forms part of the annual threat assessment of the U.S. intelligence community that was submitted to the U.S. Congress by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence during a Congressional hearing.
Also read | Explained | The escalation on the India-China border
While India and China have engaged in bilateral border talks and resolved border points, relations will remain strained in the wake of the countries’ lethal clash in 2020, the most serious in decades, said the report.
The expanded military postures by both India and China along the disputed border elevate the risk of armed confrontation between two nuclear powers that might involve direct threats to U.S. persons and interests and calls for U.S. intervention. Previous standoffs have demonstrated that persistent low-level friction on the Line of Actual Control (LAC) has the potential to escalate swiftly, it said.
Relations between China and India have virtually frozen ever since the eastern Ladakh military standoff between the two countries in May 2020.
India has been maintaining that its ties with China cannot be normal unless there is peace in the border areas.
According to the report, the crises between India and Pakistan are of particular concern because of the risk of an escalatory cycle between two nuclear-armed states. New Delhi and Islamabad probably are inclined to reinforce the current calm in their relationship following both sides’ renewal of a ceasefire along the Line of Control in early 2021.
“However, Pakistan has a long history of supporting anti-India militant groups, and under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, India is more likely than in the past to respond with military force to perceived or real Pakistani provocations. Each side’s perception of heightened tensions raises the risk of conflict, with violent unrest in Kashmir or a militant attack in India being potential flashpoints,” it said.
Relations between India and Pakistan have been strained over the Kashmir issue and cross-border terrorism emanating from Pakistan.
India has maintained that terrorism and talks cannot go together and Islamabad should provide a conducive atmosphere for the resumption of dialogue.
Meanwhile, Pakistan and the U.S. have held a round of counterterrorism dialogue.
The two-day discussions covered a range of topics including counter-terrorism cooperation at multilateral forums, assessment of the regional counterterrorism landscape, cyber security and countering violent extremism.
During the dialogue, the two sides shared their experiences in countering the financing of terrorism. They reaffirmed their commitment to address the common threat of terrorism in all its forms and manifestations.
The State Department Spokesperson Ned Price said U.S.-Pakistan counter-terrorism dialogue provides an “opportunity for the United States to convey our willingness to work with Pakistan” to address terrorist threats and counter violent extremism, the threats that are in the region, the threats that have the potential to transcend the region as well.
“We have a shared interest in combating threats to regional security,” Mr. Price said.
“The goal of a stable and secure South and Central Asia free from terrorism depends on the strength of in large part our partnership with Pakistan. The dialogue is a testament to our shared commitment to a resilient security relationship and an opportunity for a candid discussion on steps we can take together to counter all terrorist groups that threaten regional and global stability,” he said.
He was responding to a question about whether the U.S. take up with Islamabad the issue of support by the Pakistani army and ISI to terrorist groups like Lashkar-e-Taiba, active in Kashmir, and Khalistani terrorist groups.
“The United States seeks to expand our partnership to address these challenges. Any group that threatens regional and global stability of course is a concern to us. It is something that we discussed in the context of this counter-terrorism dialogue,” Mr. Price said.