The US on Tuesday said that it supports direct dialogue between Indian and Pakistan as per the 1972 Simla Agreement while asserting that the “chief obstacle” to talks remain Islamabad’s continued support to terrorists that engage in cross-border terrorism.

“We believe that direct dialogue between India and Pakistan, as outlined in the 1972 Simla Agreement, holds the most potential for reducing tensions,” Acting Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia Alice G Wells told Subcommittee on Asia, the Pacific, and Nonproliferation of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

Wells said that during 2006-2007 backchannel negotiations, India and Pakistan had made significant progress on a number of issues, including Kashmir.

“History shows us what is possible,” she added.

The top US diplomat further said that restarting a productive bilateral dialogue requires building trust, and the “chief obstacle remains Pakistan’s continued support for extremist groups that engage in cross-border terrorism”.

In a warning to the Imran Khan government, the US official said that Pakistan’s harbouring of terrorist groups like Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammed, which seek to foment violence across the Line of Control, is destabilising, and added that Pakistani authorities will be accountable for their actions.

She further said that dialogue between the two neighbours will only be successful if Pakistan takes sustained and irreversible steps against militants and terrorists in its territory.

Wells said that both US President Donald Trump and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo have met and spoken with their Indian and Pakistani counterparts multiple times, including at the recent UNGA session in New York and urged them to engage in bilateral talks.

Observing that the security situation in Jammu and Kashmir remains tense, Wells said security forces have killed terrorists in multiple encounters last week.

“We are concerned about reports of local and foreign militants attempting to intimidate local residents and business owners in order to stymie normal economic activity. The United States supports the rights of Kashmiris to peacefully protest, but condemns the actions of terrorists who seek to use violence and fear to undermine dialogue,” she said.

The statements by the United States comes days after the Indian Army launched artillery strikes on terrorist camps in Pakistan-occupied-Kashmir on Sunday, killing at least 10 Pakistani soldiers as well as a similar or higher number of terrorists.

Post the revocation of Article 370 on August 5, several attempts were made to infiltrate terrorists into the Indian territory.

One such attempt was made in the Tangdhar sector during the intervening night of October 19-20, to which the Indian forces retaliated. Pakistan had carried out attack firing at Indian posts, but before they could attempt the infiltration, the Army targeted the terror camps across the border.

Two Indian soldiers and a civilian were killed in the unprovoked ceasefire violation in Tangdhar sector of Kupwara in Jammu and Kashmir on the intervening night of October 19-20.

Civilian areas in Ghundhishat village in Tangdhar were hit by the Pakistan Army’s artillery firing.

Till October 10 this year, Pakistan has violated ceasefire in Jammu and Kashmir for 2,310 times. As per the Army, 147 terrorists have been killed till October 10 in various operations in the hinterland and the LoC.

Meanwhile, according to reports, at least 50 terrorists including suicide bombers are getting trained at the recently reactivated Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) terrorist facility in Pakistan’s Balakot.

Earlier, Indian Army and intelligence sources, quoting the confessions of two Lashkar-e-Taiba terrorists captured recently in Jammu and Kashmir, had said that around 300 trained militants are prepared to enter Indian territory from Pakistan to stoke violence in the region.