The Trump administration has blamed Pakistan for deteriorating India-Pak relations and warned that the ties might worsen further if another "high- profile" terrorist attack emanates from across the border.
"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 2016 Pathankot cross-border attack, set the stage for a deterioration of bilateral relations in 2016," Daniel Coats, director of National Intelligence, said to the lawmakers during a Congressional hearing.
"They might deteriorate further in 2017, especially in the event of another high-profile terrorist attack in India that New Delhi attributes to originating in or receiving assistance from Pakistan," Coats said in his testimony before the Senate committee on worldwide threats.
"Easing of heightened India-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," Coats said.
"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.
He said "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."
"The threat to the 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 said to the members of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence.
"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, Laskhare Jhangvi, and Lashkar-e Jhangvi ai-Aiami," he said.
"Pakistan's pursuit of tactical nuclear weapons potentially lowers the threshold for their use," Coats warned.
"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.