NEW DELHI, Dec 4: If there is a war over Kashmir, as Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif is reported to have said could be the case given that the region is a perennial flashpoint, then Pakistan is not going to win it, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh cautioned on Wednesday.
“There is no scope of Pakistan winning any such war in my lifetime,” Dr Singh said after he was told that Prime Minister Sharif hinted at such a likelihood in case the Kashmir dispute was not resolved.
The controversy between the two nuclear armed neighbours was rooted in a comment apparently made by Prime Minister Sharif, but also sought to be denied by him, during a tour of Azad Kashmir on Wednesday.
“Kashmir is a flashpoint and can trigger a fourth war between the two nuclear powers at any time,” Mr Sharif said in an address in Muzaffarabad on Tuesday.
Mr Sharif’s office denied the comment hours later, describing the newspaper report as “incorrect and based on mala fide intentions”.
However, in a statement that’s certain to be seen with suspicion in India, Mr Sharif’s office added that he had “a dream of seeing held-Kashmir free from the Indian occupation and desired that this dream could turn into reality during his lifetime”.
His statement comes as both countries have been trying to rebuild relations.
In recent months, violations of the ceasefire along the de facto border or Line of Control in Kashmir have been at their worst. In September, Mr Sharif met Dr Singh at the UN General Assembly in New York and both leaders said they would ensure their military commanders worked on restoring the ceasefire.
Mr Sharif’s comment has come with the rise of rightwing nationalism to India’s centre-stage, which has led to the revival of an acrimonious debate on the politically sensitive Article 370 of the Indian constitution that grants Jammu and Kashmir a special status.
The Bharatiya Janata Party, which hopes to form the next government, is opposed to any special status to Kashmir and instead advocates its complete merger with India.