India, Pakistan can get involved in direct conflict, US intelligence chiefs

The US intelligence chiefs have warned of a direct conflict between the nuclear-armed neighbours, India and Pakistan, said a media report today.

“US intelligence chiefs have warned Congress that India may launch aggressive actions inside Pakistan on the pretext of stopping “cross-border attacks” and that the ongoing exchange of artillery shells across the Line of Control (LoC) may lead to a direct conflict between the nuclear-armed neighbours,” reported Dawn News.

The report said that the warning given at a US Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on Tuesday afternoon was followed by alarming statements from New Delhi and Islamabad, threatening attacks and counterattacks.

“India has sought and continues to move to isolate Pakistan diplomatically and is considering punitive options to raise the cost to Islamabad for its alleged support to cross-border terrorism,” Lt Gen Vincent Stewart, the head of US Defence Intelligence Agency, told the committee.

“Increasing numbers of firefights along the Line of Control, including the use of artillery and mortars, might exacerbate the risk of unintended escalation between these nuclear-armed neighbours,” warned the director for National Intelligence, Daniel R. Coats.

The two officials were briefing senators on the US intelligence community’s threat assessment for 2017-18, during which they see terrorist groups attacking American interests across the globe.

“In 2016, Indian and Pakistani forces exchanged some of the heaviest fire in years along the Line of Control in Kashmir, and each expelled a number of the other’s diplomats amid growing tension,” he added with a warning that yet another terrorist attack could lead to an India-Pakistan war.

Director Coats told the committee that relations between India and Pakistan remained tense following two major attacks last year by militants who he claimed had crossed over from Pakistan.

“They might deteriorate further in 2017, especially in the event of another high-profile terrorist attack in India that New Delhi attributes to originating in or receiving assistance from Pakistan,” he said.

“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.”

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