Washington, Aug 13 (IANS) Reiterating its hands-off policy on Kashmir, the United States has expressed the hope that the two South Asian neighbours will continue the steps they have recently taken to improve bilateral relations despite recent border tensions.
The US was "concerned about any violence, as we always are along the Line of Control (in Kashmir)," State Department spokesperson Marie Harf told reporters Monday when asked about tension between the two nations following the killing of five Indian soldiers.
"We continue to press and hope that India and Pakistan will continue the steps they have recently taken to improve their bilateral relations," she said.
"Beyond that, I don't have anything further except to reiterate what we've always said, that they need to keep taking steps to improve trust and improve their relationship," Harf said.
In response to another question about Kashmir, the spokesperson said: "We believe, as we always have, that the pace, scope, and character of India and Pakistan's dialogue on Kashmir is for those two countries to determine.
"These are discussions that happen in those two countries among their own two governments, and that's the appropriate place for that determination to be made," she added.
Seeking to make a distinction between the Kashmir issue and "the broader issue of our concern about extremism in that region," Harf said: "I would emphasize that those are two separate issues and that I think our views on both are well known."
"Again, our position on Kashmir has not changed," she repeated in response to another question about the issue.
Asked about the possibility of a war between India and Pakistan, Harf said:
"I don't want to venture a guess hypothetically at what might - as to what might happen next."
"I noted that we hope they will continue the steps that we have seen recently to improve their bilateral relations," Harf said.
"Of course, we remain concerned about any incidents of violence and we'll make that clear, but I'm not going to hypothetically venture to guess what will happen next."
In response to a question on Indian political leaders visiting the US to campaign with the Indian community, the spokesperson said: "We, as the US State Department and US Government don't take sides and don't pick who we think should be winners of elections."
"We'll work with whoever the elected winners are at the outcome of that election. But in terms of a US Government position, we certainly don't take sides."