New Delhi: Crediting America’s transparency, Shekar Gupta of ThePrint said, “Whatever may be wrong with America, one thing you have to compliment them for is that even assessments like these by the intelligence community are put out in public.”

He added that the report is the latest “signal coming out of Washington” of how it views the most direct and serious threats from across the world vis-à-vis the national security of the United States.

China Poses Biggest Threat To US

Gupta discussed key highlights of the report, starting with how it views China as the biggest threat to the US and its allies. It also looks at the view from China: “Beijing sees increasingly competitive US-China relations as part of an epochal geopolitical shift.”

The report says China views the US’ economic measures against it since 2018 as attempt to weaken China’s rise. “So to that extent, the Chinese see continuity from Trump to Biden,” remarked Gupta, referring to the former and present US presidents.

China wants to use its successful pandemic response for superiority vis-à-vis the West, especial the US, adds the report. “They want to hold it out to the world as an example of how their system is stronger and works better than in much richer countries,” observed Gupta.

On the section about Beijing’s aim to secure “territory and regional pre-eminence” with naval and army forces far superior to others in the region, Gupta said: “All of China’s neighbours on the ground and across the water have to look at this very carefully.” He reminded that the Chinese still view Arunachal Pradesh as part of its territory.

Top Regional Issues

With regard to regional issues outlined in the assessment report, the top concern is the China-India border tensions that are viewed as “high” despite some “pullback of forces”. Gupta observed: “(The report) says China will continue to harass India, or by implication, its neighbours in the South China Sea…[with] which it has disputed claims.”

The report also says Beijing will now try to expand its network of foreign bases and installations. “Djibouti is a good example of that,” said Gupta. He cited an article by China specialist Aadil Brar, which explains the fears of some Djibouti’s elite that their country has the potential to become the ‘Singapore of Africa’.

On the report’s observation that Chinese rocket forces are capable of targeting and threatening all US bases in the region, Gupta added: “Obviously, they are talking about Japan, Korea, and places like Diego Garcia.”

A key highlight, as pointed out by Gupta, is the observation that a general war between India and Pakistan is unlikely but crises between the two are likely to become more “intense”. Also, under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, India is more likely to respond with military force to “perceived or real” provocations from Pakistan, states the report.

Gupta also pointed out that though the report says prospects for a peace deal in Afghanistan remain low, it is contrary to the policy that the US administration is following at the moment.

He said US President Joe Biden announced Wednesday that the US will withdraw all remaining troops from Afghanistan by the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks this year. “This has led to a lot of criticism within the American strategic community,” said Gupta, adding that many have argued that working on a proper peace agreement with Taliban is more important than setting deadlines.

Lastly, Gupta discussed the section of the report on the state of democracy around the world. It stated, “Authoritarian and illiberal regimes around the world will increasingly exploit digital tools to surveil their citizens, control free expression, and censor and manipulate information to maintain control over their populations.”

Gupta noted: “It doesn’t make any exception of democracies, which are becoming illiberal.”