WASHINGTON: Relations between India and China is expected to remain tense this year, despite the efforts of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping to improve ties between the two nations, a top American spymaster told lawmakers on Tuesday.
National Intelligence Director Dan Coats said though Modi and Xi held an informal summit in April 2018 to defuse tension and normalise relations between the two nation post the 2017 military standoff at Doklam, they did not address border issues.
"Misperception of military movements or construction might result in tensions escalating into armed conflict," he warned.
"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," Coats told members of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence during a Congressional hearing on World Wide Threat assessment of the US intelligence community.
Coats said Chinese leaders will try to extend the country's global economic, political and military reach, while using China's military capabilities and overseas infrastructure and energy investments under the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) to diminish the US' influence.
"However, Beijing is likely to face political pushback from host governments in many locations...," he said.
India has been severely critical of the BRI as the USD 50 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, which is part of the BRI, passes through Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK). India says it cannot accept a project that ignores its core concern on sovereignty and territorial integrity.
India was the only country in the eight-nation Shanghai Cooperation Organisation on June 10 last year which refused to endorse the ambitious BRI for which Beijing has signed pacts with nearly 80 countries and international organisations.