The United States intelligence committee has apprehended that India under Prime Minister Narendra Modi is more likely than in the past to respond with military force to "perceived or real Pakistani provocations", expressing concern over the risk of an "escalatory cycle" between the two nuclear-armed states.
The Annual Threat Assessment of the US Intelligence Community report was submitted to the US Congress by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence during a Congressional hearing. The evaluation forms part of the annual threat assessment of the US intelligence community.
It noted that Pakistan has had a long history of supporting anti-India militant groups. "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," the report further 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 US have held a round of counterterrorism dialogue.
Meanwhile, the report also noted that relations between India and China will remain strained in the wake of the countries’ "lethal clash in 2020", the most serious in decades. The clash saw troops from both the countries engaging in skirmishes at locations along the Sino-Indian border, including near the disputed Pangong Lake in Ladakh. "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," the report said.
India has been maintaining that its ties with China cannot be normal unless there is peace in the border areas. "Previous standoffs have demonstrated that persistent low-level friction on the Line of Actual Control (LAC) has the potential to escalate swiftly," the report added.
The report observed that China’s Communist Party (CCP) will continue efforts to achieve President Xi Jinping’s vision of making China the "preeminent power in East Asia and a major power on the world stage". "Beijing will try to expand its influence abroad and its efforts to be viewed as a champion of global development via several initiatives––including the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and Xi’s new flagship policies—the Global Development Initiative and the Global Security Initiative," it said.
It further acknowledged that Russia’s unprovoked war of aggression against Ukraine is a tectonic event that is reshaping Russia’s relationships with the West and China, in ways that are "highly uncertain". A great risk is posed by escalation of the conflict to a military confrontation between Russia and the West, the report said. "Russia will continue to pursue its interests in competitive and sometimes confrontational and provocative ways, including by using military force as it has against Ukraine and pressing to dominate other countries in the post–Soviet space to varying extents," it added.
(With PTI inputs)