India’s conflict with China and Pakistan “could spillover with repercussions that may require immediate” attention of the United States, an annual American intelligence threat assessment released on Wednesday said.

Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines submitted the assessment to the United States Congress during a hearing on global threats.

The report said that the relationship between New Delhi and Beijing will remain strained due to a major face-off between Indian and Chinese soldiers along the Line of Actual Control in Ladakh in June 2020. The clash had led to casualties on both sides – the first in many decades.

“The expanded military postures by both India and China along the disputed border elevate the risk of armed confrontation between two nuclear powers that might involve direct threats to US persons and interests, and calls for US intervention,” it added.

The disengagement from the skirmishes has not concluded despite several rounds of talks between Indian and Chinese military commanders, the intelligence report noted.

The US report said that previous standoffs between India and China have shown that “persistent low-level friction” on the Line of Actual Control has the potential to escalate swiftly.

It also said that the Russian invasion of Ukraine has demonstrated that the era of “nation-state competition and conflict” is now a defining characteristic of the times.

“While Russia is challenging the United States and some norms in the international order in its war of territorial aggression, China has the capability to directly attempt to alter the rules-based global order in every realm and across multiple regions, as a near-peer competitor that is increasingly pushing to change global norms and potentially threatening its neighbors,” the threat assessment report added.

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Risk of ‘escalatory cycle’ between India and Pakistan

The intelligence report also warned of a potential conflict between India and Pakistan with particular concern because of the risk of an “escalatory cycle between two nuclear-armed states”.

It, however, added that New Delhi and Islamabad are probably “inclined to reinforce the current calm in their relationship” after a fresh ceasefire along the Line of Control in 2021.

The report stated that India is more likely than in the past to respond with military force to “perceived or real Pakistani provocations” under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
“Pakistan has a long history of supporting anti-India militant groups,” the report added.

Relations between India and Pakistan worsened in 2019 after the Modi government revoked Article 370 of the Constitution, which gave special status to Jammu and Kashmir. New Delhi has often accused Islamabad of providing logistical and financial support to militants in the region.

“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,” the annual assessment said.