When asked to comment on the war of words between the Indian and Pakistani home ministers at the recent SAARC meeting, deputy spokesperson of the US State Department, Mark Toner replied in a cautious, diplomatic – and ultimately evasive – tone. “I’m not going to get into the specifics of the back-and-forth except to say that we obviously believe that Pakistan needs to do all it can to confront all terrorists operating on its soil, we’ve seen it make progress; we want to see more progress on its part.”

The ‘progress-more progress’ line has been around since the beginning of the Afghan war; and was parroted out when he was asked about a tiff that emerged out of specific circumstances. This is highly irresponsible and damaging. Indian Home Minister Rajnath Singh’s abrupt departure from the meeting and his previous exchange of words with Pakistani Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar centred over the Kashmir issue – with Pakistan pointing out the continued atrocities committed by the Indian army in occupied Kashmir, and India insisting on Pakistan’s role in the Kashmir insurgency.

The United States needed to comment on that, on Kashmir, on the ability of both nations to work out this contentious issue, and the support by the international community to the plight of the Kashmiris. Yet, it took the easy way out, and in doing so exasperated the problem rather than solving it.

International organisations ranging from the United Nations to Amnesty International have all urged a resolution to the crisis following the recent spike in violence, and the use of pellet guns to blind protestors has been a subject of discussion amongst human rights groups. Yet the United State’s decision to stay silent shows it unwillingness to engage on this pertinent issue.

The problematic aspect of this approach is that it ultimately favours India. By mentioning terrorism only – which should be mentioned, but not in isolation – and ignoring documented human rights violations in Kashmir, the US is unfairly vindicating India’s stance. Not only does this legitimise the actions taken by the Indian army as ‘not mention worthy’, it also antagonises Pakistani officials and most importantly, the Kashmiri people.

The shift in regional allegiances has been apparent for a while now. But the US government should remember that picking sides does not mean blinding oneself to legitimate problems – especially those that are a cause of continued animosity between two-nuclear armed neighbours.