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India Hopes New Pakistan Leaders Will Target Militancy

A vendor sits next to images of cricket star-turned-politician Imran Khan, chairman of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), at a market in Islamabad, Pakistan, July 27, 2018. Khan, who declared victory in this week's election, has called for better ties with India.

India, in its first comments following this week's general election in Pakistan, said Saturday that it hoped the new government in Islamabad would "work constructively" to end militancy in South Asia.

Cricket star-turned-politician Imran Khan, who won the disputed election, has called for better ties with India.

"We hope that the new government of Pakistan will work constructively to build a safe, stable, secure and developed South Asia free of terror and violence," India's Ministry of External Affairs said in a statement.

India accuses Pakistan of backing several anti-India militant groups and helping them to infiltrate the divided Kashmir region to stoke violence. Pakistan denies the charge.

On Thursday, as he declared victory in the election, Khan said India and Pakistan should resolve the Kashmir dispute through talks.

India and Pakistan have fought three wars since their independence in 1947, two of them over Kashmir, which they both claim in full but rule in part. Clashes between their forces in Kashmir largely stopped after a 2003 cease-fire, but exchanges of fire have been more common in recent years.

India's foreign affairs ministry did not directly comment on Khan's call for talks, but said it welcomed that "the people of Pakistan have reposed their faith in democracy through general elections."

"India desires a prosperous and progressive Pakistan at peace with its neighbors," the statement said.

On Saturday, Khan opened coalition talks with at least one smaller party and independent politicians, a spokesman said, after the announcement of the full results of the election.