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SRINAGAR: Three days after Indian Prime Minister – Narendra Modi – challenged Pakistan to compete with India on issues like poverty and unemployment, Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister – Mehbooba Mufti – too pitched a similar idea, but termed it friendly relations instead of a war.

Mufti was speaking at a government-sponsored function in Srinagar, summer capital of Indian-administered Kashmir.

Mufti, whose Peoples Democratic Party is an ally of Modi-led Bharatiya Janata Party, said war was never an option to resolve issues. She did not specify the ‘issues’ though.

Mufti called for amicable relations between the two nuclear-armed countries, saying they should fight poverty and economic deprivation plaguing the region. She also expressed need of a bilateral dialogue to resolve issues, again not specifying them.

Mufti said, “The two nuclear armed neighbors must cooperate in the fields of social development, including eradication of poverty and with their growing economies and energy needs, and the need for newer, more diverse markets and trading opportunities. The future of the troubled region has to be defined by common economic interests instead of hostilities.”

“Instead of fighting wars with each other, the two countries should join hands to eradicate poverty and to address social problems plaguing the region,” Mufti said.

Reacting to the reports that the Indian Government was in the process of reviewing the Indus Water Treaty, Mufti said the agreement, while being beneficial to India and Pakistan, was not in the interest of Jammu and Kashmir. “However, if the two countries can mutually share the water resources, why not their other resources?” she said.

The Chief Minister also expressed dismay over the non-participation of various leaders in the region in the upcoming SAARC summit in Islamabad (Pakistan). “It is unfortunate that while other countries are forging new economic ties, the SAARC countries are going in the reverse direction,” she said.

Seven-decade long Kashmir dispute is at the core of tense relations between the two countries. The present Modi-led Indian Government does not recognize Kashmir as a bilateral dispute and continues to call it an ‘internal matter’ of India.