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India's Modi, Pakistan's Khan Discuss Hopes For Peace In Region

Pakistan's cricketer-turned politician Imran Khan
Pakistan's cricketer-turned politician Imran Khan

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has called Pakistan's Imran Khan to congratulate him on his party's victory in Pakistan's general election, and both men expressed hopes for regional peace.

The phone call on July 30 was their first since Khan's Tehrik-e Insaf (PTI) party emerged victorious from a July 25 vote that was marred by charges of preelection rigging and other irregularities.

Relations between the nuclear-armed rivals have been frayed, with direct talks stalled amid diplomatic disputes and occasional skirmishes along the frontier that divides the disputed region of Kashmir.

Khan, widely seen as Pakistan's prime minister-in-waiting, declared in his victory speech that he wanted to resolve the long-standing territorial dispute over Kashmir, saying, "If India comes and takes one step towards us, we will take two."

Khan is now courting independent candidates and minor parties to form a coalition government in a nation that has fought three wars with India.

In the phone call, Modi "reiterated his vision of peace and development in the entire neighborhood," according to a statement by India's Ministry of External Affairs.

Khan's media team said he told Modi it was vital both countries focus on pulling millions out of poverty.

The PTI said Khan also told Modi that issues between the two nations must be resolved through talks. "Wars can breed tragedies instead of facilitating resolution of conflicts," he said, according to a PTI statement.

Meanwhile, Modi "expressed hope that democracy will take deeper root in Pakistan," the Indian ministry said.

European Union observers say there was an uneven playing field during the election as major obstacles were put in the way of a rival party that was led by jailed former premier Nawaz Sharif.

The United States has also expressed concern about what it called electoral "flaws."

Khan has offered to investigate all claims of irregularities and promised to build a new Pakistan with an Islamic welfare state that would seek to elevate those mired in poverty.

Sharif's party has accused Pakistan's powerful military of colluding with Khan to rig the election -- something both Khan and the military have denied.

With reporting by AP, AFP, and Reuters
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