(This was originally posted in The Print by Pia Krishnankutty)
New Delhi: Under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, India is more likely to respond with military force to “perceived or real” provocations from Pakistan, the US intelligence community said in its annual report on threats around the world. The report that was released Tuesday also said though a general war between India and Pakistan is unlikely, crises between the two are likely to become more “intense”, with the risk of “an escalatory cycle”.
“…heightened tensions raise the risk of conflict between the two nuclear-armed neighbors, with violent unrest inKashmiror a militant attack in India being potential flashpoints,” it said.
The report comes amid what is perceived to be a thaw in the relationship between New Delhi and Islamabad. India and Pakistan recently re-committed to the 2003 ceasefire agreement and in a rare occasion last month, Pakistan Army Chief General Bajwa said it was time for the two countries to “bury the past and move forward”.
Earlier this month, Pakistan’s Ministry of Commerce intended to lift a ban on importing sugar and cotton from India — a move that would have reversed a two-year-old decision to suspend all trade with India. The proposal was struck down later and Prime Minister Imran Khan, after holding consultations with key members of his cabinet, announced that Pakistan cannot go ahead with any trade with India under the current circumstances. The US intelligence report also noted that tensions “between nuclear-armed India and Pakistan” remain a concern not just for the US but for the world.
‘China-India border tensions remain high’
The report also expressed concern over recent developments in the India-China relationship following the Galwan border clash last year. “China-India border tensions remain high, despite some force pullbacks this year,” it said.
India and China have been working to ease tensions along the Line of Actual Control in eastern Ladakh in recent months. However, differences have emerged over the next steps the two armies need to take.
“China’s occupation since May 2020 of contested border areas is the most serious escalation in decades and led to the first lethal border clash between the two countries since 1975,” the report observed.
From the US perspective, the report described China as a “near-peer competitor” that is challenging America in multiple areas, especially economically, militarily, and technologically, while also pushing to change global norms. The report predicted that Beijing will try to increase its influence using “vaccine diplomacy”, by giving countries favored access to the Covid-19 vaccines it is developing.