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India, China risk armed confrontation due to continued military posturing: US intelligence assessment

Underlining Pakistan’s history of supporting anti-India militant groups, report says India under Modi is more likely to respond to Pakistani provocations with military force.

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New Delhi: The expanded military postures by both India and China along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) elevate the risk of armed confrontation between two nuclear powers that might involve direct threats to the US and calls for its intervention, American intelligence’s global threat assessment for 2023 says.

The Annual Threat Assessment of the US Intelligence Community report, released by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence this week, points out that while India and China have engaged in bilateral border talks and resolved border points, their relations will remain strained in the wake of the countries’ lethal clash in 2020 — the most serious in decades. 

The unclassified part of the report was referring to the Galwan clash that saw severe loss of lives on both sides in Eastern Ladakh in 2020.

The report added that previous standoffs have demonstrated that persistent low-level friction on the LAC has the potential to escalate swiftly. 

It also raised red flags about the ongoing tensions between India and Pakistan, saying that the crises between the two countries are of particular concern because of the risk of an escalatory cycle between the two nuclear-armed states.

New Delhi and Islamabad are probably inclined to reinforce the current calm in their relationship following both sides’ renewal of ceasefire along the Line of Control (LoC) 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,” the report said.

The report added that 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.

Highlighting the tension between the US and China, the detailed threat analysis says the Chinese 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. 

“As Xi begins his third term as China’s leader, the CCP will work to press Taiwan on unification, undercut the US influence, drive wedges between Washington and its partners, and foster some norms that favour its authoritarian system,” the report said.

At the same time, China’s leaders will probably seek opportunities to reduce tensions with Washington when they believe it suits their interests, it added.

The report said Beijing — to pursue global influence— is increasingly combining growing military power with its economic, technological, and diplomatic influence to strengthen the CCP rule and secure what it views as its sovereign territory and regional preeminence. 

“China is capable of leveraging its dominant positions in key global supply chains in an attempt to accomplish its goals, although probably not without significant cost to itself, it added.

However, the report said, China faces myriad — and in some cases growing — domestic and international challenges, including an aging population, high levels of corporate debt, economic inequality and growing resistance to the People’s Republic of China’s (PRC) heavy-handed tactics in Taiwan and other countries, that will likely hinder the CCP leaders’ ambitions. 

(Edited by Richa Mishra)

Also Read: Jaishankar raises ‘abnormal’ state of LAC with Chinese FM, stalemate in eastern Ladakh to continue


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