US intelligence report warns of worsening India-Pak ties over terror

12 May 2017

The US intelligence community's first global threat assessment report under the Trump administration says India-Pakistan ties could worsen unless there is a significant reduction in cross-border terror attacks.

Putting the responsibility for improving relations squarely on Pakistan, the report says 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 report, titled Worldwide Threat Assessment of the US Intelligence Community, warns of Pakistan's tactical nuclear weapons being captured by non-state actors, and of ''persistent but diffuse'' threats from Pakistan-based terrorist groups to the US and the West.

Terror acts against the US homeland, it said, will be ''conducted on a more opportunistic basis or driven by individual members within these groups''.

The report, submitted to the Congress each year, has inputs from all 17 state agencies and covers an entire range of threats from cyber to terrorism to weapons of mass destruction and new emerging challenges, such as artificial intelligence.

The report's assessment that India-Pakistan relations ''might deteriorate further in 2017'' comes on the back of ''another high-profile terrorist attack in India that New Delhi attributes to originating in or receiving assistance from Pakistan''.

The report puts 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.''

The report, which corroborates India's stated position that Pakistan had failed to curb its support to anti-India terrorists, said 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'' caused a deterioration of relations last year.

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

The US intelligence report 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 is believed to have the world's fastest-growing nuclear arsenal, and Islamabad 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.

Concerns about these smaller weapons being more prone to theft were raised publicly by former president Barack Obama in April 2016, at the conclusion of a nuclear summit in Washington attended by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. He had said, without naming countries, ''nuclear arsenals are expanding in some countries, with more small tactical nuclear weapons which could be at greater risk of theft''.

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