The American intelligence community on Wednesday 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 Pakistani provocations.
This assessment forms part of the annual threat assessment of the US intelligence community that was submitted to the US Congress by the Office of Director of National Intelligence during a Congressional hearing.
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 US persons and interests, and calls for US 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.
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.
Responding to a question, the State Department Spokesperson Ned Price said US-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. 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 candid discussion on steps we can take together to counter all terrorist groups that threaten regional and global stability,” he said.
“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,” Price said.