India may face communal violence in the run-up to the Lok Sabha elections if the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) continues stressing its Hindu nationalist agenda, Director of National Intelligence Daniel Coats told US lawmakers.
Coats made the statement as he, along with heads of other top American intelligence agencies, appeared before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence to present their worldwide threat assessment. Among the attendees was CIA Director Gina Haspel, who has just returned from a trip to India, FBI Director Christopher Wray and Defence Intelligence Agency Director Robert Ashley.
In a written statement to the Senate Select Committee on Tuesday, Coats said: "BJP policies during (Prime Minister Narendra) Modi’s first term have deepened communal tensions in some BJP-governed states, and Hindu nationalist state leaders might view a Hindu-nationalist campaign as a signal to incite low-level violence to animate their supporters."
According to the report, the increase in communal clashes could "alienate Indian-Muslims", and will also give Islamist terror outfits room to expand their influence.
India's ties with Pakistan, China to remain tense
Coats wrote that factors such as cross-border terrorism between India and Pakistan, the Lok Sabha elections, and Islamabad's "perception of its position within the United States relative to India" will cause ties to remain tense.
"Despite limited confidence-building measures — such as both countries recommitting in May 2018 to the 2003 cease-fire along the disputed Kashmir border — continued terrorist attacks and cross-border firing in Kashmir have hardened each country’s position and reduced their political will to seek rapprochement."
Relations between India and China are also expected to remain tense this year, despite the efforts of Modi and Chinese president Xi Jinping to improve ties between the two nations.
"Misperception of military movements or construction might result in tensions escalating into armed conflict," Coats warned.
He also noted India and Pakistan's growing nuclear strength and said that this increases the risk of a nuclear security incident in South Asia. "While Pakistan continues to develop new types of nuclear weapons, including short-range tactical weapons, sea-based cruise missiles, air-launched cruise missiles, and longer-range ballistic missiles, India this year has conducted its first deployment of a nuclear-powered submarine armed with nuclear missiles," he told lawmakers.
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Updated Date: Jan 30, 2019 15:38:57 IST