US asks India, Pakistan to have dialogue

Washington, Aug 14 (IANS) Asserting once again that its policy on Kashmir remains unchanged, the United States has repeated its call to India and Pakistan to have a dialogue to resolve issues, build trust and work together.

The US was "obviously concerned about any violence along the Line of Control" in Kashmir, State department spokesperson Marie Harf again told reporters Tuesday in response to a question about recent incidents of firing on the LoC.

"We will continue to encourage further dialogue," she said adding, the US ambassadors "in both India and Pakistan have raised these recent incidents with their respective host governments and conveyed our hope that India and Pakistan will continue the steps they have recently taken to improve their bilateral relationship."

In response to another question on the Kashmir issue, Harf reiterated "first, that our policy on Kashmir has not changed. We still believe that the pace, scope, and character of India and Pakistan's dialogue on Kashmir is for those two countries to determine with each other."

The US "ambassadors in both India and Pakistan have reached out to their respective governments to convey our hope that they will continue to take steps to build trust and to work together," she said. "We of course would encourage any dialogue between the two countries going forward."

Asked if the fact that both India and Pakistan have nuclear weapons made the situation more alarming, the spokesperson said: "I think it probably goes without saying that because of their capabilities that we would be concerned by any increased tension.

"I'm not saying that's what's happening now, just hypothetically speaking if that were to happen. It's exactly the reason why we are encouraging dialogue," she said.

Asked if Washington should not be more proactive in encouraging talks between the two South Asian neighbours, Harf said the US ambassadors in New Delhi and Islamabad were engaged with the governments there.

"But at the end of the day, this is an issue that we believe - again, the pace and the scope and the character of their dialogue on Kashmir is really for those two countries to determine together," she said.

"We'll engage when we think it's appropriate, as our ambassadors are doing," Harf said adding, "Well, I think we can encourage them to have dialogue and to resolve the dispute. I agree, but we don't have to do that necessarily with an envoy."

"I think our ambassadors are very engaged on the ground on this," she said. "What that engagement looks like going forward, I don't have a prediction to make for you other than to say, of course, we will continue to encourage both sides to move forward with this dialogue."

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