America's NI Director warns India about Communal Violence Before LS polls
Washington: There is a strong possibility of communal violence in India if the Bharatiya Janata Party stresses on Hindu nationalist themes ahead of the Lok Sabha election in May, America's National Intelligence Director told US lawmakers on Tuesday.
The comment on India's upcoming general election is part of the US intelligence community's assessment of worldwide threats in the year 2019 and was presented in the form of a written document to the powerful Senate Select Committee on Intelligence by Dan Coats, Director of National Intelligence
"Parliamentary elections in India increase the possibility of communal violence if Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) stresses Hindu nationalist themes," Coats told members of the US Senate Select Committee on Intelligence.
Coats and heads of other top American intelligence agencies appeared before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence to present their worldwide threat assessment. Prominent among them included CIA Director Gina Haspel, who has just returned from a trip to India, FBI Director Christopher Wray and Defense Intelligence Agency Director Robert Ashley.
"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," Coats said in his written statement.
"Increasing communal clashes could alienate Indian Muslims and allow Islamist terrorist groups in India to expand their influence,” Coats warned ahead of the general election.
Coats in his written statement also warns of a strained India-Pakistan relationship at least till May when the Modi government will complete its term.
Despite limited confidence-building measures — such as both countries recommitting in May 2018 to the 2003 ceasefire 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, he said.
"Political manipulation resulting from the Indian national elections probably will further restrict near-term opportunities for improving relations," said Coats.