WASHINGTON: Under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, India is more likely to respond with military force to “perceived or real” provocations from Pakistan, warns a US intelligence report sent to Congress this week.
The annual threat assessment report – 2021 was prepared by the office of the US Director of National Intelligence (DNI) and sent to Congress on Tuesday. It identifies China’s “push for global power” as the number one threat to US interests followed Russia’s provocative actions and threats from Iran.
The report provides “nuanced, independent, and unvarnished intelligence” assessment to “policymakers, warfighters, and domestic law enforcement personnel,” Director DNI Avril Haines wrote in the introductory note.
While assessing possible threats from South Asia, the report warned that “under the leadership of Prime Minister Modi India is more likely than in the past to respond with military force to perceived or real Pakistani provocations.”
The report noted that “heightened tensions” in the region “raise the risk of conflict between the two nuclear-armed neighbors, with violent unrest in Kashmir or a militant attack in India being potential flashpoints.”
But the report also said that “a general war” between India and Pakistan during 2021 was unlikely, but “crises between the two are likely to become more intense, risking an escalatory cycle.”
Another US intelligence report to Congress, released last week, had warned that India and Pakistan could go to a war in the next five years over real and perceived provocations.
The report pointed out that some regional conflicts – such as the fighting in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria – had “direct implications for US security,” while “tensions between nuclear-armed India and Pakistan remain a concern for the world.”
The report assessed the prospects for a peace deal between the Afghan government and the Taliban in 2021 as low. “The Taliban is likely to make gains on the battlefield, and the Afghan government will struggle to hold the Taliban at bay if the coalition withdraws support,” the report predicted. It also noted that Kabul “continues to face setbacks on the battlefield, and the Taliban is confident it can achieve military victory.”
DNI also noted that Afghan forces continued to secure major cities and other government strongholds, but “they remain tied down in defensive missions and have struggled to hold recaptured territory or reestablish a presence in areas abandoned in 2020.”
Commenting on Iran’s role in Afghanistan, the report said that “Iran will hedge its bets in Afghanistan,” adding that “Iran publicly backs Afghan peace talks, but it is worried about a long-term US presence in Afghanistan.”
As a result, “Iran is building ties with both the government in Kabul and the Taliban so it can take advantage of any political outcome,” the report added.
DNI’s annual threat assessment reports are shared with congressional intelligence committees as well as the committees on the Armed Services of the House of Representatives and the Senate.
Published in Dawn, April 16th, 2021