The Kashmir dispute has once again come to the fore, with India and Pakistan exchanging stern words and Islamabad denying it called the region a "flashpoint" to a fourth war between the two countries.

Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharief in an interview to the "Dawn" newspaper on Wednesday was quoted as saying, "Kashmir is a flashpoint and can trigger a fourth war between the two nuclear powers at anytime."

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This triggered a sardonic reaction from New Delhi with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh saying, "There is no scope of Pakistan winning any such war in my lifetime."

Later in the day, Sharif's office issued a statement denying the reported statement saying he "never uttered these words and the news item is baseless, incorrect and based on malafide [sic.] intentions."

Arms race

In a separate release, Sharif was quoted as saying he considered Kashmir "his prime responsibility", and hoped "that it should be resolved in accordance with the wishes of Kashmiri people and United Nations resolutions".

Though he denied the remark on Kashmir being a flashpoint for the next war, Sharif blamed India for drawing Pakistan into an "arms race". He said, "We were drawn into arms race by India. If we had a choice, we could have diverted these expenditures to the social sector uplift and eradication of poverty."

The statement from Islamabad also said, "The prime minister said that he had a dream of seeing India held-Kashmir free from the Indian occupation and desired that this dream could turn into reality during his lifetime." Sharif however said he was satisfied with the situation on the line of control between the two countries.

Sharif's foreign policy adviser, Sartaj Aziz, in a separate talk with reporters called on India to withdraw its troops from the Siachen glacier. The soldiers were damaging Pakistan's largest single freshwater source by their presence, he was quoted as saying.

India and Pakistan have been in dispute over Kashmir since partition and independence in 1947. Both claim the entire territory of Kashmir to themselves. The nuclear-armed neighbours have fought three wars with each other, two of them over Kashmir.

Source: Al Jazeera