US asks India, Pakistan to cool off and talk

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Washington, Jan 10 (IANS) The US has asked India and Pakistan to cool down tensions over the killing of two Indian soldiers along the Line of Control in (LoC) Jammu and Kashmir and talk to each other to improve relations.

"We're urging both sides to take steps to end the violence. We continue to strongly support any efforts to improve relations between the two countries," State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland told reporters Wednesday.

"We've also discussed these latest incidents with both governments, urged them to talk to each other, and urged calm," she said in response to a question about the incident.

"We are concerned about reports of violence along the Line of Control in Kashmir. It's our understanding that the governments of India and Pakistan are now talking and trying to work through these issues at a high level," Nuland said.

Asked if the US was worried about possible escalation of the incident, the spokesperson said: "Violence is not the answer for either country."

Washington, she said, has through calls at the ambassadorial level in both countries been "counselling both governments to de-escalate, to work through this issue, to continue the consultations between them at a high level that we understand are ongoing now".

Asked if the US supported a Pakistani move for a third party or UN investigation into the incident, Nuland said it would be best if the two countries could work it out themselves, but if both sides wanted UN support, Washington would back that too.

"India and Pakistan have made pretty good progress in recent years in working through a number of difficult issues, including opening of trade relations," she noted.

"They are now engaged at a high level on these recent incidents. If they can work it out themselves, that's obviously best," she said. But "If both parties were interested in support from the UN, et cetera, we'd obviously support that as well.

"But at the moment, we're urging them to talk to each other," Nuland said.

The spokesperson declined comment into the alleged beheading of two Indian soldiers saying, "I'm not going to get into the specifics here. I think we've spoken to the general principles we want to see here."

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was aware of the tension between India and Pakistan on this issue and "instructed our ambassadors to work with both governments, which they are doing", Nuland said.

(Arun Kumar can be contacted at arun.kumar@ians.in)