US,under Donald Trump,blames Pakistan for deteriorating Indo-Pak ties,says US threat report

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Relations between India and Pakistan could worsen in 2017 unless there is a “sharp and sustained” drop in cross-border terror attacks from Pakistan, the US intelligence said on Thursday in its first report on worldwide threat assessment under the Trump administration, putting the onus of improving ties on Islamabad.

The US intelligence gives Congress a report every year called “Worldwide Threat Assessment of the US Intelligence Community” with inputs from all 17 entities that comprise the community. It covers an entire range of threats from cyber to terrorism to weapons of mass destruction and new emerging challenges, such as artificial intelligence.

“Islamabad’s failure to curb support to anti-India militants and New Delhi’s growing intolerance of this policy, coupled with a perceived lack of progress in Pakistan’s investigations into the January 2016 Pathankot cross-border attack, set the stage for a deterioration of bilateral relations in 2016,” Daniel Coats, director of National Intelligence, told lawmakers during a Congressional hearing.

The Director of National Intelligence (DNI) serves as the top intelligence official in the United States government. The DNI oversees what is known as the Intelligence Community,which consists of more than a dozen civilian and military agencies that collect information on threats against the United States.

The 16 agencies include Air Force Intelligence, Army Intelligence, Central Intelligence Agency, Coast Guard Intelligence, Defense Intelligence Agency, Department of Energy, Department of Homeland Security, Department of State, Department of the Treasury, Drug Enforcement Administration, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Marine Corps Intelligence, National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, National Reconnaissance Office, National Security Agency, and Navy Intelligence.

The Director of National Intelligence (DNI) serves as the head of the Intelligence Community (IQ), overseeing and directing the implementation of the National Intelligence Program (NIP) and acting as the principal adviser to the President, the National Security Council and the Homeland Security Council for intelligence matters.

Testifying before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence along with top intelligence officials, Coats said the relations between India and Pakistan became more tense following two major terrorist attacks in 2016 by militants crossing into India from Pakistan.

In his remarks ahead of the possible release of the Afghanistan policy of the Trump Administration, he said “Pakistani-based terrorist groups will present a sustained threat to the US interests in the region and continue to plan and conduct attacks in India and Afghanistan.”

The warning that India-Pakistan relations ‘might deteriorate further in 2017’ was premised on ‘the event of another high-profile terrorist attack in India that New Delhi attributes to originating in or receiving assistance from Pakistan’.

The report put the responsibility for improving relations squarely on Pakistan, arguing, ‘Easing of heightened Indo-Pakistani tension, including negotiations to renew official dialogue, will probably hinge in 2017 on a sharp and sustained reduction of cross-border attacks by terrorist groups based in Pakistan and progress in the Pathankot investigation.’

Terrorists belonging to Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammad attacked an Indian Air Force base in Pathankot on January 2, 2016, killing six soldiers. The attackers were killed in an operation lasting three days.

“The threat to the US and the West from Pakistani-based terrorist groups will be persistent but diffuse. Plotting against the US homeland will be conducted on a more opportunistic basis or driven by individual members within these groups,” he told members of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence.

Noting that Pakistan will probably be able to manage its internal security, he said anti-Pakistan groups are likely to focus more on soft targets.

“The groups we judge will pose the greatest threat to Pakistan’s internal security include Tehrik-e Taliban Pakistan, Jamaat ui-Ahrar, al-Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent, ISIS-K, Laskhare Jhangvi, and Lashkar-e Jhangvi ai-Aiami,” he said, adding that the emerging China Pakistan Economic Corridor will probably offer militants and terrorists additional targets.

“Pakistan will likely turn to China to offset its isolation, empowering a relationship that will help Beijing to project influence into the Indian Ocean,” said the top US intelligence official.

In his remarks ahead of the possible release of the Afghanistan policy of the Trump Administration, he said “Pakistani-based terrorist groups will present a sustained threat to the US interests in the region and continue to plan and conduct attacks in India and Afghanistan.”

US intelligence also worries about Pakistan’s tactical nuclear weapons, the existence of which has been officially confirmed by Islamabad, saying its ‘pursuit of these weapons potentially lowers the threshold for their use’.

Pakistan’s stated willingness to deploy such weapons “early…during a crisis”, the report warned US lawmakers, “would increase the amount of time that systems would be outside the relative security of a storage site, increasing the risk that a coordinated attack by non-state actors might succeed in capturing a complete nuclear weapon”.

Pakistan has the world’s fastest growing nuclear arsenal, according to multiple reports and assessments, and has publicly owned up to the existence of tactical nuclear weapons, which are smaller and designed for use on the battlefield, aimed at offsetting India’s heavy superiority in conventional weapons.

“Early deployment during a crisis of smaller, more mobile nuclear weapons would increase the amount of time that systems would be outside the relative security of a storage site, increasing the risk that a coordinated attack by non-state actors might succeed in capturing a complete nuclear weapon,” Coats said.