Washington: The United States' Trump Administration has blamed Pakistan for deteriorating relations with India on Thursday and said that terror groups in Pakistan will continue a pose a "sustained threat" to US, India and Afghanistan.
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"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," said US' National Intelligence director Daniel Coats in his testimony before the Senate Select Committee on intelligence.
"The threat to 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 added.
He further said that strained relations between India and Pakistan are a result of the Pathankot and Uri attacks of 2016, carried out by terrorists crossing into India from Pakistan and terror incidents along the Line of Control might further deteriorate relations between the India and Pakistan.
"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 2-16 Pathankot cross-border attack, set the stage for the deterioration of bilateral relations in 2016... They (India-Pak relations) might deteriorate further in 2017, especially in the event of another high-profile terrorist attack in India," Mr Coats told US lawmakers.
India has reiterated that Pakistan must stop supporting terror groups if it wants to continue bilateral talks, which was supported by the senior Trump Administration official.
"Easing of heightened Indo-Pak 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," Mr Coats said.
Mr Coats also highlighted that Pakistan might turn to China due to India's rising geopolitical status and good relations with the US.
"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.
Daniel Coats further contended that while Pakistan will be able to manage its internal security, anti-Pak groups will likely 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, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi and Lashkar-e-Jhangvi ai-Aiami," Mr Coats said.
He also said that Pakistan's pursuit of tactical nuclear weapons could lower the "threshold for their use".
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," he said.
(with inputs from PTI)