While reiterating that US President Donald Trump is willing to mediate between the two nuclear-armed Asian neighbours, the unnamed official emphasised that the onus for peace talks with India lays at Pakistan’s doorstep.
"He (Trump) certainly is prepared to play a mediation role, if both the countries ask. It has been India's position not to seek outside mediation," Indian news agency PTI quoted the official as saying.
The official’s comment assumes significance in light of bilateral relations between Islamabad and New Delhi, which have remained low since February this year, when a suicide bomber affiliated to the Jaish-e-Mohammad terrorist group killed over 40 Indian paramilitary troopers in Pulwama district in the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir.
Hopes for reconciliation were dashed when New Delhi revoked the over seven-decade-long quasi-autonomous special status of Jammu and Kashmir in August and announced that effective 31 October, the state would be split into two federal government-administered regions – Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh.
Pakistan responded by downgrading diplomatic ties and suspending all trade relations with India. It has since used every platform available to it – domestic and foreign - to condemn New Delhi’s actions in Kashmir, which it continues to claim are in violation of several UN Security Council resolutions.
India has always insisted upon its sovereignty over Jammu and Kashmir and ruled out any third-party mediation, including from the UN and the US. It has said that this is a bilateral issue for it to sort out with Pakistan.
Washington will continue to encourage an atmosphere that allows for constructive dialogue between India and Pakistan, the US State Department official said.
On India and Pakistan signing the agreement for next month’s operationalisation of the Kartarpur Corridor to allow Sikh pilgrims from India to visit one of their sacred shrines in Pakistan, the official said it is a welcome confidence-building measure to increase 'people-to-people' contact within the region.
"While it's a small step, we need more like this to also create the will, the goodwill and the environment for constructive dialogue," he added.
"When you have two nuclear powers... it is important that all avenues be explored to increase contact and communication between the two sides, the official said.
India and Pakistan have been engaged in recent skirmishes along the Line of Control (LoC), the de facto border separating the two countries in Jammu and Kashmir, with both sides blaming each other for ceasefire violations.
The Kashmir issue dates back to 1947 when the then-British controlled Indian subcontinent was partitioned into two independent countries - India and Pakistan -and both claimed the former princely state of Kashmir in entirety. Both countries have since fought three wars, two of them over Kashmir.