The head of US Intelligence has warned of communal riots ahead of this year’s Lok Sabha polls if ‘Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s BJP stresses Hindu nationalist themes.’
The annual report on the ‘World Threat Assessment’ authored by Director of US National Intelligence Daniel R Coats said, “BJP policies during 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. Increasing communal clashes could alienate Indian Muslims and allow Islamist terrorist groups in India to expand their influence.”
On India’s relationship with its hostile neighbour Pakistan, the report said that the parliamentary elections will further train the relationship between the two countries. It said, “We judge that cross-border terrorism, firing across the Line of Control (LoC), divisive national elections in India, and Islamabad’s perception of its position with the United States relative to India will contribute to strained India-Pakistan relations at least through May 2019, the deadline for the Indian election, and probably beyond. 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.
“Political maneuvering resulting from the Indian national elections probably will further constrain near-term opportunities for improving ties.”
On India’s relationship with another neighbour China, the report said that the US did not expect any improvement in the relations between the two countries.
“We expect relations between India and China to remain tense, despite efforts on both sides to manage tensions since the border standoff in 2017, elevating the risk of unintentional escalation. Chinese President Xi Jinping and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi held an informal summit in April 2018 to defuse tension and normalize relations, but they did not address border issues. Misperceptions of military movements or construction might result in tensions escalating into armed conflict,” the report added.
India has not yet reacted to the US apprehensions on BJP’s politics of polarisation possibly causing religious strife ahead of the parliamentary polls.