WASHINGTON - A noted American journalist has made a strong case for US mediation on the decades-old Kashmir dispute to ease tensions between nuclear-armed India and Pakistan, warning that the South Asian tinderbox keeps on getting hotter. This is a problem that might seem ripe for US mediation. Washington has close ties with both countries, after all, and it could act as an honest broker on issues such as Kashmir, which is ruled by India but claimed by both countries, wrote David Ignatius in The Washington Post Saturday. But Indians say that American intervention could just make matters worse - poisoning public opinion against any deal that emerged, he said in a dispatch from New Delhi where he met for three days with Indian officials. US diplomats are walking on eggshells: The Kashmir problem is so sensitive that American officials sometimes refer to it as the K word, as if the very subject were unmentionable. Washington has gently encouraged dialogue between the two countries, but two meetings last year between their foreign ministers collapsed amid mutual recriminations. They will have another chance next month at a regional gathering in Bhutan, but nobody seems very hopeful, Ignatius wrote. The Indians watch Pakistans political instability with grim resignation. The root problem, they argue, is that the Pakistani military is unwilling to sever its links with Islamic terrorists. Until the Pakistanis break this insurgency, they will be at its mercy. Dialogue with India wont make any difference, they insist. The last thing we want to see is Pakistan slide into instability, he quoted one top Indian official as saying, but he cautions that there is little that India or America can do. Its Pakistans internal problem. And that, we cant fix. As India celebrates its own economic success, there is a slight tone of South Asian schadenfreude about Pakistans troubles. There is one school of thought that says, 'If they [the Pakistanis] are committing suicide, then you dont have to murder them, the top official conceded to the US journalist. But the consequences of that are horrible. I came away from these discussions feeling that Indian leaders are being shortsighted: If Pakistan descends further into violence and chaos, India will suffer from the fallout, Ignatius wrote. And with these two bitter rivals, there is always the risk of nuclear war. If I were a newly prosperous Indian, Id want to help my ailing neighbour as a matter of self-protection. But try making that argument to Indian officials. You have to recognize that some problems cant be solved, counsels one prominent Indian. Officials here dont want American mediation, and they think outreach to Pakistan wont do any good. Meanwhile, the South Asian tinderbox keeps on getting hotter. The Indians watch Pakistans political instability with grim resignation. The root problem, they argue, is that the Pakistani military is unwilling to sever its links with Islamic terrorists. Until the Pakistanis break this insurgency, they will be at its mercy, they insisted.